Military-style approaches are being employed as a means to call a halt to wildlife losses. This has led many to question whether such approaches are necessary to ensure the adequate conservation of some of our favourite animals. In the podcast, Rosaleen Duffy, Professor of International Politics, tells us more about militarised conservation, explaining exactly what it is, and the impact it is having on both animals and humans.

The rises in poaching of some of the worlds most iconic animals, especially rhinos, tigers and elephants, have led to a growing sense of urgency in conservation. It is often argued that we are in a race against time to save species from extinction. This sense of crisis and of urgency has been accompanied by a key shift in conservation towards more forceful and military–style responses. This is not just confined to active use of force, but encompasses a wider range of processes including training of rangers by former military personnel now working in the burgeoning private security sector; the use of technologies which have their origins in the military (drones is the most obvious example) and the development of informant networks for intelligence gathering.  The learning is not just one-way either – conservationists are learning from the military, but the military also able to learn and trial new techniques in the field of wildlife conservation.

There are many reasons to be cautious about this –  not only in terms of what kinds of conservation outcomes that a militarised response might produce. We need to ask ourselves: Do we want conservation with a martial face? If conservationists are operating in conflict zones, they can feel they have no option but to arm rangers in order to ensure their own safety. But even this can be problematic. For example, there are emerging reports of rangers suffering from PTSD; if external NGOs fund and support arming rangers then they may be breach of international arms embargoes; and of course there is always the danger that militarised conservation will just add to the conflict and increase levels of insecurity for local communities. We also need to consider the politics of race – the sector is populated by overwhelmingly white military trainers, and much of the imagery used harks back to that of European colonists imparting knowledge as part of a civilising mission in Africa.

The BIOSEC team are researching these emerging dynamics in wildlife conservation; we focus on responses to poaching and wildlife trafficking, and we aim to develop a much better understanding of the challenges and pitfalls in integrating conservation and security.

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