This module is a resource for lecturers


Impact of enforcement-based approaches to wildlife trafficking on IPLCs


Crime control models and impacts on IPLCs

The current approach to disrupting wildlife trafficking relies largely on traditional crime fighting responses, usually led by public law enforcement authorities. Recently, private military and security companies have entered the fray. The crime control models associated with these authorities - including command-and-control methodologies, green militarization and hotspot policing - tend to be reactive, responding once a crime has been committed. Intelligence-driven policing and anti-poaching patrols are meant to be proactive and preventative. This section presents current crime fighting models, applications and impacts on IPLCs.

Command-and-control approaches to ensure environmental compliance

Originally a military approach, command-and-control refers to the exercise of authority and direction in a top-down fashion over assigned resources towards the accomplishment of a common goal. Command-and -control methodologies in natural resource management refer to attempts to control ecosystems and socioeconomic institutions. The aim is to decrease variation and unpredictability in ecosystems, to render them more stable and reliable to meet human needs (Holling and Meffe 1996). Command-and-control often points to a large degree of authoritative centralization and control. This protectionist (preservationist) approach entails not only fortress conservation but also the so-called ‘fences and fines’ approach, which assures compliance with environmental regulations. In terms of effects on IPLCs, this approach may keep them out of conservation areas (including, as noted earlier, eviction) but they are also fined when trespassing. They are also frequently portrayed as the antagonists of protected areas and wildlife, necessitating ‘boots on the ground’ to keep them out.

Anti-poaching patrols have a long tradition in protected areas. Rangers usually fulfill duties related to conservation. For example, in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, 90 percent of a ranger’s duties used to relate to conservation, with the other 10 percent related to law enforcement. With the onset of the rhino poaching crisis in the late 2000s, rangers started dedicating 90 percent of their effort to anti-poaching related duties while conservation duties took up less of their time (Hübschle and Jooste 2017). This change in priorities was in response to the problem of rhino poaching, but this shift could also be attributed to a more militarized approach, with military and private security professionals at the helm in the Greater Kruger landscape (Annecke and Masubelele 2016).

Countries such as Botswana, Cameroon, Kenya, South Africa, and Zimbabwe are some of the countries that use military technology and strategies in their anti-poaching efforts (Carlson, Wright and Dönges 2015). Botswana, for instance, introduced a shoot-to-kill order in 2013, targeting suspected poachers trespassing in protected areas. While some have argued that military responses are effective in the fight against poaching (Mogomotsi and Madigele 2017), others have linked human rights abuses to these approaches (Brooks and Hopkins 2016, Duffy et al. 2019). Another consequence of militarized approaches is that they can fuel an arms race between protectors and poachers (Control Arms and Pace University 2016; Lunstrum 2014): both sides are using increasingly sophisticated weaponry and methods.

Green militarization

The steep increase in the poaching of charismatic megafauna – rhino, tiger and elephant - since 2005 has led to conservationists desperately seeking effective responses to disrupt illegal hunting of endangered species. One set of proposed responses relates to the implementation of military and security measures, including the use of military and para-military actors, strategies and technologies (Duffy et al. 2019, Lunstrum 2014). So-called “green militarization” often involves a mutually beneficial partnership between conservation actors, the military, private military companies or security companies (Dutta 2020, Ybarra 2018). Supporters of this approach argue that militarization is a necessary evil in order to deter armed and dangerous organized criminals from killing endangered wildlife and to prevent others from taking up poaching (Shaw and Rademeyer 2016, Hill 2018, Hübschle and Jooste 2017).

Beyond militarizing anti-poaching responses, scholars have argued that “green violence” reaffirms fortress conservation and uses the language of violence and war (“war on poaching”) to designate friends and enemies (Büscher and Ramutsindela 2016). The impact and consequences of militarized responses are far reaching. Other than elevating poaching to a national security threat and/or organized crime, there are long-term impacts on conservation practises, rhetoric, policy and interactions between conservation actors and other stakeholders (Duffy et al. 2019). Local communities have reported severe human rights infringements and overt violence by anti-poaching personnel, even murder, rape and torture (Hübschle and Shearing 2021).

Also compare with Section “Green violence and militarization at Kruger National Park” in Module 3.

The aim of civil and administrative measures is to compel persons to cease harmful activity and to take measures to stop, prevent, remediate or mitigate the harm of the activity. Traditionally, environmental authorities in some parts of the world have relied almost exclusively on criminal measures to compel compliance with wildlife and marine laws and regulations. Across southern Africa, success is often measured in terms of lowering the incidence and increasing arrest rates in annual crime statistics. Arrests and successful prosecutions are used as key performance indicators (KPIs) and assessment tools to indicate heightened conservation agency guardianship. More arrests and prosecutions could be indicators of a higher incidents of poaching or poaching incursions, however, so it is important to keep in mind that these KPIs do not necessarily point to success and they are reactive indicators. In order to meet KPIs, environmental officers often focus their activities on low-hanging fruit: local people that attempt to access natural resources that used to be common pool resources but are now protected behind fences or illegal hunting. The command-and-control approach requires well-resourced and capacitated enforcement authorities to be effective because the control functions are time consuming and expensive. These mechanisms are inflexible in that they do not allow discretion to tailor compliance to suit specific situations (Craigie 2009: 52).

Crime control measures and criminal sanctions are designed to be forms of deterrence or punishment, yet they do not always encourage positive action. Research undertaken in Namibia (Hübschle and Shearing 2018) and Kenya (Roe 2015) showed that some community members involved in community conservancies thought that severe penalties for wildlife crime were fair and a good deterrent that would discourage their youth from becoming involved in poaching. On the other side, penalties can have major social impacts if the breadwinner is imprisoned and can lead to the impoverishment of whole households (Prinsloo, Riley-Smith, and Newton 2021, Hübschle 2017).

Intelligence-driven and hotspot policing

Intelligence-led policing is designed as a collaborative mechanism for information sharing within law enforcement and between community members. It relies on a significant analytical component and focuses on threats (Carter and Gore 2013). Intelligence-led policing has been suggested as a useful strategy to target crimes against the environment, including wildlife crime (Moreto 2015). A study on implementation of intelligence-driven operations in Uganda (Moreto, Cowan and Burton 2017: 7) highlighted that there are four main themes related to the intelligence-led operations. These include:

  • Investigation of illegal activities within and beyond park boundaries;
  • Utilizing community intelligence-led policing and developing informants;
  • Rudimentary analyses; and
  • Development of actionable intelligence.

In the aforementioned case study on Uganda, interviewed rangers said that their main sources of information derived from the local communities. Additionally, rangers also used personal informants and said that it helped when community members planned to engage in poaching to have someone in that community who works with the rangers (Moreto, Cowan and Burton 2017). At the same time, there are significant barriers that can prevent local peoples’ cooperation with rangers; for instance, fear of retaliation by poachers, including physical harm or property damage (Anagnostou et al. 2020). Furthermore, financial incentive or lack thereof has been indicated as another barrier for community members to supply rangers with information, or alternatively supply rangers with false information and instead inform poachers (Anagnostou et al. 2020). Former poachers may also be used as informants by authorities. There have also been efforts at rehabilitation of former poachers as rangers. This may not always be a good idea since there may be an associated stigma, which leads to the former poacher neither gaining acceptance in the ranger fraternity nor in the community. The issue of rehabilitation of former poachers who are from the local communities is also a complex one (compare with case study on rhino guards in Namibia in next section).

Hotspot policing is regarded as another effective crime prevention strategy (Braga et al. 2019). In wildlife crime, geographic information systems have been used to identify patterns of past poaching activities to help with the future surveillance of poachers (Haines et al. 2012). For example, by identifying patterns of poaching behaviour, park rangers are able to survey areas targeted by poachers more efficiently, therefore saving time and resources (Haines et al. 2012; Rashidi et al. 2018). Based on the hotspot research and conclusions that wildlife crime is concentrated in specific areas or happens at a specific time (e.g. a full moon is also known as ‘poacher’s moon’ - compare with Hübschle 2016), some have suggested that approaches such as situational crime prevention might be useful for reducing wildlife crime (Kurland et al. 2017). In this instance, crime prevention in hotspots would rely on crime deterrence and crime opportunity reduction (Braga et al. 2019). A study by Barichievy and co-authors (2017), however, found that general field ranger presence in a protected area does not deter rhino poaching; the scholars also recommended an evidence-based approach to inform field-based law enforcement as only few studies have assessed effectiveness of patrols. Furthermore, situational crime prevention has been criticized for focusing on symptoms and not underlying, systematic causes such as poverty, inequality and discrimination (Wortley 2010). As it does not address the causes of the crime or behaviour, it has been argued that it will only displace the crime either by moving it to a different location, or that the offender would change tactics or commit other types of crime (Wortley 2010; Keane, Jones and Milner-Gulland 2012).

Increasing use of surveillance technologies to monitor and curb wildlife crime

Technology has become a go-to response in many sectors, including combating wildlife crime and trafficking. It has been argued that technology should support rather than replace security processes (Hanauer 2020) and that “human resources remain the cornerstone of [illegal wildlife trade] efforts” (World Bank 2018). Surveillance technologies are one of many tools offered to monitor the illegal wildlife trade. These can include digital surveillance such as using web crawling surveillance to collect illegal wildlife trade reports from various sources (see Sonricker Hansen et al. 2012) or on-the-ground remote sensing technologies such as camera traps, satellite-tracking technology and drones (Shrestha and Lapeyre 2018). A survey by Duporge (2016) showed that GIS patrol systems, aerial surveys and thermal/infrared sensors are viewed as ‘most essential’ among officials working for international conservation organizations and law and governmental agencies.

Nevertheless, there are concerns associated with the use of surveillance technologies. Some have argued that current trends of basing policies on the use of military technology such as drones could be effective when it comes to profit-oriented poachers but could cause more harm than good for other types of poachers such as subsistence or traditional hunters, as it can reduce local peoples’ perceptions of trust and legitimacy (Moreto and Lemieux 2015, Sandbrook 2015). Respondents in Duporge’s (2016) study highlighted the risks associated with the mismanagement of data and potential misuse of surveillance capability. Respondents also spoke of the dangers of relying too much on technology, which could potentially cause friction between the local groups and external technology experts who employ surveillance technology. Duporge (2016) argues that there are risks when “relying too much on tech and too little on locals” who may then “feel slighted by outsiders coming in and trying to ‘fix’ things without their buy-in.” A study that focused on communities in Nepal (Shrestha and Lapeyre 2018) found that the use of digital technologies uprooted the role local communities play in wildlife management and conservation and created an uneasy feeling among the local communities. For instance, conservation drones in the TAL-Nepal region were used as a scare tactic in protected areas (Shrestha and Lapeyre 2018: 97). Furthermore, it has been argued that there is a danger that modern surveillance technologies would make traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) of local communities obsolete. While some argue that TEK is inaccurate, many wildlife experts argued that despite low levels of accuracy, this knowledge helps them to work more efficiently (Shrestha and Lapeyre 2018). It has been argued that traditional knowledge and methods should be combined with modern technologies to increase community engagement and therefore contribute to conservation sustainability (Shrestha and Lapeyre 2018).

Local communities as crime preventers

This section focuses on how IPLCs play an active role in shaping criminal justice responses and prevent wildlife trafficking. Not only are community members often stewards of ecosystems and wildlife protectors, but some members may receive income as game guards or rangers. Protecting wildlife and ecosystems may thus also provide a livelihood. Stewardship should also entail transfer of land and natural resource user rights, which has not happened in many cases.

Sometimes community rangers are set up by park authorities and/or NGOs; sometimes the community initiates them themselves. There are many programmes that enroll local communities and indigenous peoples in crime prevention activities. These programmes range from informant networks to visible policing type functions (compare with the previous section). It is important to note that there are multiple ways in which communities can be engaged as rangers:

  • IPLCs establish their own patrols in Indigenous Peoples’ & Community Conserved Territories and Areas
  • IPLCs are part of joint patrols in national parks or on private land
  • IPLCs are employed as formal park rangers in national parks or on private land

Anti-poaching strategies are the most efficient when ‘co-produced’ by civilians and law enforcement agencies. Without the support of the police, communities that engage in anti-poaching might put themselves at a significant risk. A USAID report (Wilkie, Painter and Jacob 2016) identifies three broad groups of motivators and enabling conditions that need to be in place to ensure a successful collaboration with law enforcements agencies such as the police: ownership (in other words, the community directly benefits from conservation), trust in law enforcement, and social cohesion and trust among community members.

Community policing or community-orientated policing is a strategy whereby law enforcement agencies forge close ties with the communities they are working with and frequently involves engaging community members in policing operations. In conservation, this usually involves recruitment of community members into ranger units. There are two women-only ranger units that have garnered a lot of international attention since their establishment: the Black Mambas in South Africa and Akashinga in Zimbabwe (see case study).

Another common strategy is to employ former poachers as anti-poaching rangers (Lotter et al. 2016: 9). For example, in Kerala’s Periyar Tiger Reserve in India, forest officials stopped a group of people who were poaching wildlife and smuggling sandalwood. They offered to drop criminal charges against the poachers if they instead protected the reserve. The former poachers were put through a three-month training programme and became part of Vidiyal Vanapathukappu Sangam, India’s first eco-development committee constituted solely of former poachers and sandalwood smugglers (Shaji 2020).

Case study: Community game guards and rhino monitors in Namibia’s community conservancies

This case study describes the community game guard system initiated by community elders in Namibia’s Kunene region. A group of local traditional leaders instituted the auxiliary game guard system to curb widespread poaching in the northwestern regions of Namibia in 1983. At the time, they appointed six community members in key wildlife areas, who were to provide regular reports on human and wildlife movements within a 25 kilometer radius of their villages. The system relied on local knowledge and experience of the local population for the benefit of conservation while also providing a basic income to local families who had been affected by a severe drought (Owen-Smith 1984). The system of game guards was co-opted, adapted and rolled out by the NGO Save the Rhino Trust of Namibia, which piloted the community game guard system on black rhinos in the Kunene region (Uiseb 2007). Assisted by local leaders and community members, Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC), a Namibian NGO, created a network of community game guards who monitor rhino stocks and established a pilot project to bring tourism revenue to communities as an incentive for wildlife conservation (Jones 1999). Community game guards are locally hired, trained and deployed on patrols in each registered community conservancy. Incentive-driven conservation has created ‘allies on the ground’ and ‘eyes and ears’ in community conservancies.

This idea was further rolled out when Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism established the Rhino Custodianship Programme in 2005, which relocated black rhinos to their historical rangelands in community conservancies. The innovative programme achieved biological management while also providing local communities with income from rhino-related tourism activities. In 2011, Namibia’s Communal Rhino Custodianship Programmeasked for help to raise the rhino-monitoring capacity of community rangers. More conservancy rhino rangers have since been appointed. These rhino rangers have been given training and monitoring equipment and receive performance-based bonus incentives. This has led to an improvement in the quantity and quality of conservancy-led rhino patrols (Muntifering 2016). A notable innovation here was to combine rhino ranging with rhino-tracking tourism activities, whereby local trackers demonstrate their animal-tracking skills and local knowledge to tourists while helping save rhinos in the process. Rhino poaching decreased by 80 percent during the first five years of the roll-out of the Communal Rhino Custodianship Programme while rhino sightings have increased fivefold (People not poaching database 2018).

Case study: Amazon river turtles

In the Santa Sofia Indigenous Reserve, almost 40km from Leticia, Colombia, there is a local initiative aimed at involving indigenous communities in Colombia and Peru in the conservation of three Amazon River turtle species. Initiated by the Curuinsi Huasi Indigenous Association and facilitated by the BioDiversa Foundation, the programme recruits, trains and incentivizes local people as guardians to protect the turtles nesting on river beaches (endangered due to local consumption and through commercial trade). Between the programme’s inception in 2008 and 2019, the guardians have protected 470 nests and prevented the killing of 540 female turtles and 12 000 nestlings. This is done, for example, through monitoring main nesting beaches during nesting season from July to September. During the night, monitors protect nesting females from being removed and nests from being poached by fishers. Additionally, the nesting female tracks were erased to make it difficult for poachers to find the nests during the day, or if it was impossible to erase them, the nests were relocated within the beach area. From September to December, the turtle guardians continued monitoring beaches for hatching to start. When the turtles hatch, they record information and help hatchlings to get to the Amazon River safely. In 2012, 60 of the nests of the three turtle species were protected until they hatched; only three nests were lost due to human influence. Altogether, 1247 hatchlings reached the river safely. The guardians have a voice in regional discussions on illegal wildlife trade and nature conservation. The programme strengthens disincentives for illegal behaviour, including by paying salaries to community scouts, offering performance-based payments for patrolling or guarding, positions as unpaid (voluntary) community scouts, and in-kind payments to community scouts. Community members have also been raising community awareness about wildlife crime penalties and sanctions and strengthened and supported traditional norms and sanctions against wildlife trafficking.

Case study based on a case from the People not poaching database. For more information, visit the website of the Biodiversa Foundation.

Case study: How easy is it to get rid of criminal stigma? The case of the Pardhi in India

This case shows historical continuities of legal frameworks and that discontinuation or denotification does not undo colonial wrongs nor does it eliminate social stigma.

Pardhi literally translates to “hunter.” They claim their roots to the hinterlands of the central Indian jungles going back hundreds of years. Acknowledged for their exceptional skills in handling wildlife and their knowledge of India’s jungles, the Pardhis assisted in royal tiger hunts and trained the now-extinct Asian cheetahs, which they kept as pets and hunting companions. Archival records also show that the Pardhis hunted deer, boars, crocodiles and rabbit. The British colonial government labelled the Pardhis, along with 150 other tribes, as a “criminal tribe” through the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 (Sharma 2020).

The criminalisation sparked stigmatisation and marginalisation of the Pardhi community, whose members were also considered low caste. Only when the Criminal Tribes Act was repealed in 1952 were the Pardhis decriminalised and denotified.

Over the 80-year period in which the Criminal Tribes Act was in place, however, the Pardhis had been ousted from the forests and were often living in terrible conditions in camps on the fringes. They were legally prohibited from hunting and not provided with other skills training. Legal denotification did not lead to the erasure of the stigma associated with their criminalisation and the Pardhis, once a nomadic hunting tribe, were reduced to being settled without any rehabilitation measures. This also led to them being commonly implicated as offenders in nearby poaching incidences.

Deprived of their traditional livelihoods, there are reports of Pardhis engaging in illegal wildlife hunting (Wall 2014) but also the counter narrative of Pardhis being used for anti-poaching activities by authorities. To fight tiger poaching, conservation organizations have set up schools and training programmes, provided alternative livelihoods and put the Pardhis’ knowledge of wildlife to use. For example, some Pardhis have been recruited into anti-poaching units. This can lead to conflict within clans, however, as they may have to investigate and track their own family members; in such cases, protectors might be stigmatized as traitors and sell-outs. Becoming either a poacher or a protector is not a linear or a simple phenomenon that happens overnight. Rather, it is critical that this is situated within historical processes and contexts of moral boundary drawing.

Case study: The Bishnoi - Protests in support of endangered species protection

This case study shows how communities can exert pressure in support of the protection of endangered species. The Bishnoi community of India has historically protected forests and wildlife, and more recently, the community led a long-term protest which resulted in the conviction of a famous Bollywood actor named Salman Khan who had shot two black bucks.

The Bishnoi community follows 29 rules laid down by Guru Jambheswar; many of these rules are dedicated to environment and nature. The Bishnoi are also known as victims of the Kherjarli massacre in September 1730 ,during which 363 community members were killed while trying to peacefully protect a grove of Khejri trees. Soldiers had been sent by the Maharaja of Marwar Abhai Singh to cut the trees in the village of Khejarli to provide wood for a new palace. September 11 has been declared the National Forest Martyr Day in India to commemorate the Khejarli massacre.

For the Bishnoi, nature is sacred. In 1998, a local Bishnoi community member claimed that he had witnessed Bollywood actor Salman Khan shoot two black bucks. The Bishnoi pursued the case for 20 years to ensure that the actor received punishment for his actions. Ultimately, Salman Khan was sentenced to five years in prison (Economic Times 2018). However, the sentence was suspended pending an appeal in 2019. The Bishnoi said that they would continue to fight the case and no effort would be spared (Joshi 2019).

In 2007, they created the Bishnoi Tiger Force (BTF), an NGO for mobilisation and coordination. They have staged protests to protect trees along the road near Jodhpur after the Indian government announced it would cut them to make space for electricity lines. The BTF sat in protest and eventually saved the trees along the 30-km stretch of road (Parveen Rahman 2020). The Bishnoi are able to quickly respond to hunting and poaching incidents in their territory using their mobile phones and almost every family has a motorbike. Lawyers from the Bishnoi community come forward to help whenever there are poaching cases (Joshi 2019). It has been said that for Bishnoi conservation is a way of life (Parveen Rahman 2020).

Case study: Black Mambas and Akashinga

The case study of the South African Black Mambas is an example of local community members joining existing security and anti-poaching structures in a private game reserve. The case study on the ranger corps Akashinga shows how community members are recruited as park rangers. The case studies have been grouped together for one reason: both groups are all-women teams.

By bestowing its Champions of the Earth award to the Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit, the UN Environment Programme catapulted the unconventional anti-poaching initiative into the international limelight. With young rural women making up the vast majority of team members, the Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit is the first of its kind. Conceived by the warden of Balule Nature Reserve, Craig Spencer, the initiative was born out of the need to engage impoverished communities in and around the reserve. Although the unit’s members wear camouflage uniforms, they do not carry weapons. Their weapons of choice are notepads and pencils, which they use to document suspicious vehicles, people or activities. The primary function of the Black Mambas is therefore visible policing, as well as outreach and awareness-raising in their communities. The vision is to encourage communities to understand that their benefits will be greater through rhino conservation than through poaching.

The Black Mambas form part of a broader anti-poaching strategy deployed by the 40,000-hectare nature reserve in the Limpopo province of South Africa. Although Balule Nature Reserve has not achieved a zero-rhino poaching rate, the Black Mambas have been successful. For example, they have identified and demolished poachers’ camps and kitchens for preparing bush meat, and reduced snaring and poisoning activities substantially. Members of the unit also teach primary-school children about the environment and conservation through an environmental education programme. The Mambas’ pay is subsidized by the South African government’s Extended Public Works Programme; the reserve carries all additional costs and relies heavily on donations.

This anti-poaching unit has received its fair share of criticism. For one, there have been concerns over ‘unarmed women facing dangerous animals and poachers.’ Several conservation and community members felt that the Mambas’ role in visible policing and education undermined the role of women in rural communities. The functions of the Black Mambas are not confrontational, as the armed response element of the reserve’s anti-poaching operations is contracted to a private security company. The Black Mambas do, however, receive training in paramilitary anti-poaching methods, self-defence and arrest procedures.

Inspired by the Black Mambas, the International Anti-Poaching Foundation is testing a new community-driven conservation model called ‘Akashinga’ (Shona for the ‘Brave Ones’) in Zimbabwe. Although the model aims to build an alternative approach to fortress conservation and militarized anti-poaching responses, the women-only team receives the same law enforcement training as male rangers. The model aims to replace income from trophy hunting by empowering marginalized rural women through employment and direct benefits from conservation areas. The thinking is that trophy hunting is becoming less economically viable due to public perception, activism, constraints on hunting specific iconic species, import restrictions and reduced wildlife populations. This in turn may lead to lesser benefits from hunting to communities to motivate biodiversity conservation (compare with the case study on CAMPFIRE). Akashinga’s objective is ‘working with rather than against the local population.’ Unemployed single mothers, abandoned wives, sex workers, survivors of sexual and physical abuse, wives of poachers in prison, widows and orphans were selected into the initial team of 26 women.

What is remarkable about these models is the identification of women as a powerful and influential force within local communities. Although customary rules and traditional patriarchal cultural values in some communities may not advance women’s rights, rural women in southern Africa are inherently active citizens with clout and influence.

Case study based on Hübschle and Shearing (2018) and and

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