- Advertisment -
HomeWorldHow money and technology are militarizing the fight against the illegal wildlife...

How money and technology are militarizing the fight against the illegal wildlife trade.GTN News

- Advertisment -

Thousands of animals and plants are bought and sold around the world every year as food, medicine, clothing and furniture – even in the form of musical instruments. Wildlife seems to be big business.

The illegal wildlife trade, estimated to be worth at least US$7 billion (£5.9 billion) and potentially up to US$23 billion, is driving some of the most familiar species on Earth – particularly the rhinoceros. , elephant, lion, lion. And, more recently, the pangolin — toward extinction.

Since 2008, law enforcement has played a major role in combating the illegal wildlife trade thanks to the support of governments, private donors, conservation charities and businesses. The result is counterinsurgency techniques, such as developing informant networks and contracting with private security firms to train rangers in anti-poaching operations with military-grade weapons.

- Advertisement -

Meanwhile, many conservationists are turning to drones and other technologies to monitor species and enforce safety measures. This in turn creates new business for tech companies looking to build a green reputation.

Countries must find ways to combat illegal wildlife trade. But, as a researcher of the international politics of security, I believe that the techniques and technologies routinely used by law enforcement agencies and security firms are not the answer.

Two wildlife rangers in military-style uniforms holding rifles.
Rangers at Kruger Park, South Africa.
Wild Snap/Shutterstock

Funding problem

Between 2002 and 2018, the US Fish and Wildlife Service awarded US$301 million to 4,142 conservation projects in 106 countries. During these 16 years, an increasing share was allocated to combating the illegal wildlife trade, as part of a shift from strict species conservation and livelihood improvement projects.

In 2014, the US Congress allocated US$45 million in its foreign aid biodiversity budget to combat wildlife trafficking, increasing to US$55 million in 2015, US$80 million in 2016 and US$80 million in 2017, 2018. And in 2019 reached about 91 million US dollars. The Government’s Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund has allocated more than £23 million to 75 projects between 2013 and 2019.

The fund had three themes: development of sustainable livelihoods to replace poaching (six funded projects), strengthening law enforcement and the role of the criminal justice system (62 funded projects) and wildlife products. Reducing demand (seven funded projects).

The role of philanthropy in conservation funding is increasing. Examples include Howard Graham Buffet’s 2014 donation of US$23 million to South Africa’s Kruger National Park to help combat rhino poaching. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos set up his $10 billion Earth Fund in 2021 to distribute grants for conservation initiatives, among other environmental causes.

This money can help conservationists respond quickly to emergencies. Philanthropists tend to have a business culture in which it is normal to set goals and expect quick, clear and trackable results in return for donations, which can be beneficial for effective action planning.

But some conservationists I interviewed while researching my book, Security and Conservation, said it could result in unwanted pressures on people doing conservation work, such as rangers. He spoke of expectations of an increase in the number of seizures of smuggled goods, more arrests and more aggressive efforts against poaching in general to achieve immediate results.

Technology and Security

Conservation groups and tech companies have touted a number of technologies as cost-effective ways to crack down on wildlife trafficking. These often include forms of surveillance borrowed from the security sector, from drones and satellite monitoring of wildlife to artificial intelligence increasing the ability of camera traps to identify potential predators. Apps have also been developed for the general public to report suspected illegal activities.

A herd of zebras runs together across a dusty landscape.
Surveillance technology has increasingly been used in security.
Jost Jellokin/Shutterstock

Google’s Global Impact Awards were a US$23 million fund to help “non-profit tech innovators” (as Google calls them) develop technological solutions to a range of global challenges, including conservation. In 2012, it funded more than US$5 million to the Wildlife Crime Technology Project, which used DNA to determine the origin of illegal poaching and illegal poaching in Kenya. What is the start of the sequence?

These techniques are not necessarily problematic. But the lure of technology can overshadow the important work of tackling the underlying drivers of poaching and trafficking, such as poverty and inequality.

Although the trade is illegal by definition, to treat it as a purely criminal matter ignores the fact that people are drawn to poaching for a variety of reasons. The colonial era’s eviction of people from places now designated as national parks has left a lasting legacy. The lack of economic alternatives in such places makes poaching one of the few viable sources of income.

Global inequality is also an important factor. Wildlife is often (but not exclusively) taken from poorer areas to meet demand in richer communities, including smuggling rosewood from Madagascar to China and illegal caviar from the Caspian Sea. It goes on to cater to the luxury markets of London and Paris.

Financial support from governments and philanthropic foundations has been an important factor in conservation, especially in the last 20 years. But the belief in finding a technological solution to a problem seen as a security problem makes it difficult to develop and support alternatives that might be more effective, including those of poachers. for sustainable livelihoods and reducing demand in rich countries.

- Advertisement -
The Ultimate Managed Hosting Platform
- Advertisment -

Most Popular