ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Conservation 'Wars'

Global Rise of Green Militarisation

Wildlife conservation is increasingly being portrayed as a "war," where conservation organisations take moral positions against poaching. Military methods are being heavily used to complement the already existing fences. The discourse advocating militarisation largely ignores the complex underlying historical, social, economic and political drivers of poaching. This article argues that militarisation in conservation is problematic not just from a philosophical position but also has significant practical implications on the ground upon which conservation projects operate.

“Not just for the Taliban anymore,” reads a news article describing the proposed use of surveillance drones to curb poaching in Kaziranga National Park in the northeastern state of Assam. “It’s a war out there,” says Valmik Thapar, a famous Indian conservationist, advocating the use of paramilitary forces in anti-poaching operations, while the current Indian Prime Minister in one of his pre-election speeches claims that rhino poaching in Assam is being driven by a demand for land to settle Bangladeshi immigrants, making aggressive threats and promising vengeance. All these reports equate a complex conservation problem to terrorism, war and political instability. What also remains common is the proposed response—a more violent and militarised approach.

Conservationists all over the world are increasingly making the analogy of “waging a war” as a means of saving endangered species (Duffy 2014). International conservation campaigns present a specific image to the general audience: an image of “parks” as battlefields, “righteous” conservation non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and individual “heroes” battling armies of financially motivated and organised criminal poachers to protect wildlife. Such a “war” is presented as a legitimate response to protect large, charismatic and endangered species like tigers, rhinos and elephants. This showcases a substantial and momentous shift from participatory approaches such as community-based natural resource management from the 1990s to a more renewed model of fortress conservation, one that is more militarised in nature. Such a model has been referred to as “green militarisation” (Lunstrum 2014), a process by which “military approaches and values are increasingly embedded in conservation practice” (Duffy 2014; Lunstrum 2014).

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