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Critiques of community engagement


Compassionate conservation movement

Members of the compassionate conservation movement, formerly known as the animal rights movement, argue for the inclusion of animal ethics in conservation practices. The underlying animal rights philosophy is based on the four tenets of (i) do no harm, (ii) individuals matter, (iii) inclusivity and (iv) peaceful coexistence (Wallach et al. 2018: 1260). The movement tends to criticize traditional and community-centered conservation for applying wildlife management and subscribing to the sustainable use paradigm (note: many community responses operate outside the sustainable use paradigm). Wildlife management usually entails regulating population sizes and distribution by culling common or problematic species to encourage recovery of rarer or threatened wildlife species (Wallach et al. 2018). Adherents to this movement also contest consumptive sustainable use, especially when it involves the killing of a wild animal. Members of the compassionate conservation movement have come out in strong support of fortress conservation which allows no natural resource use, including hunting, by local communities.

Security establishment

Critiques by the security establishment regard community responses as liberal ‘nonsense’ that detracts from the real threats posed by organized crime networks that are depleting the world’s biodiversity for profit (Shaw and Rademeyer 2016; Ferreira and Jooste 2018). As noted in Section 4 of this Module, the rise of military approaches in response to wildlife trafficking has led to increased numbers of security actors protecting biodiversity, the application of surveillance technologies and greater use of force breathing a new life into fortress-style conservation (Duffy 2017). Supporters of green militarization strategies see these strategies as vital tools to preserve wildlife in the short-term, arguing that endangered wildlife species cannot wait for ‘multigenerational’ educational strategies and upliftment projects to take root as many wildlife species would go extinct before that happens (Michael 2018).

Neo-liberal critiques

The financialization and marketization of biodiversity has received considerable critiques from progressive scholars. The attribution of economic value to nature is seen as devaluing local environmental knowledge and undermining local environmental initiatives (Igoe and Brockington 2007: 443). This is further aggravated by ‘technocratic approaches to conservation, which target perceived deficiencies in the knowledge, skills and attitudes of local people’ (Igoe and Brockington 2007: 443-444). As such, in certain circumstances, neo-liberal conservation projects have disempowered local communities, evicted them or benefits have not been shared equally, and often neo-liberalization increases ‘pre-existing inequalities and social differentiations’ (Holmes and Cavanagh 2016: 205). Neo-liberal conservation approaches engage with market mentality, therefore potentially undermining multi-level value systems of local people; reliance on financial values can undermine long-term sustainability (Allen 2018).

Next: Other challenges posed by wildlife trafficking that affect local populations
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