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Anti-poaching - solution or problem?

A fascinating series of articles about the politics of conservation in Africa, written by Jane Edge, the CEO at Fair Trade in Tourism, has just been published by Safarious. There's a lot to take in so we'll break it up into smaller sections. Today, we look at the negative impact of some anti-poaching initiatives.

It's no secret that pretty much everywhere you go in Africa, so called 'wildlife armies' (highly militarised anti-poaching initiatives) are flourishing, fuelled by hundreds of millions of dollars in donor funding. But is the militarisation of wildlife conservation the answer? And at what cost to human lives?

The conservation and tourism sectors are starting to raise alarm bells, questioning the effectiveness of what is seen as a military solution and its seeming prioritisation of the lives of animals above humans.

As securocrats call for more helicopter gunships and boots on the ground, Annette Hubschle and Andrew Faull of the University of Cape Town’s Institute for Safety, Governance and Criminology, warn: “In the current environment, the perception that wild animals are valued more highly than black rural lives is difficult to dismiss”.

The University of Sheffield’s Professor Rosaleen Duffy and Hannah Dickinson add: “Private militaries are not capable of addressing the complex reasons why poaching persists. These include poverty, a desire for status and coercion of vulnerable communities by organised wildlife traffickers. Conservation armies can’t fix any of the above. At worst they alienate the very communities needed to make conservation work.”

Hundreds of people die every year in the war on poaching in Africa. In South Africa’s Kruger National Park around 700 poachers have been killed in the past seven years while between 60 and 100 game rangers lose their lives in Africa each year. Civilians die too, including girls in central Africa who are captured as slaves by the Lord’s Resistance Army and armed bandits who turn to poaching.

Picture:  In LEWA Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya, a rhino keeper introduces baby rhinos to a group of Samburu warriors. Photo: Ami Vitale for Northern Rangelands Trust

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