Kenya’s Conservation Militia

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Kenya has a new military, but not a rebel group. In fact, this new militia may even be somewhat approved of by many local governments and international organizations. This is because this group, almost oxymoronically, has been assembled to conserve. It uses violence to protect, albeit an unlikely group of victims.
Started by Julius Lokinyi, a former elephant poacher, this militant group made up of mainly rangers and untrained volunteers has a mission to fight elephant poachers. The reason is that “elephants… are actually worth more alive than dead, because of the tourists they attract.” Grossly understaffed and underfunded, rangers of national parks have increasingly felt powerless to the growing number of poachers and an increased ivory demand in Asia. Now, however, these rangers have found a group in which they can make a difference, and they’ve found others with additional reasons to join. ” ‘This isn’t just about animals,’ said Paul Elkan, a director at the Wildlife Conservation Society, who is trying to set up community ranger squads in South Sudan modeled on the Kenyan template. ‘It’s about security, conflict reconciliation, even nation building.’ ” Other nations such as South Sudan are making attempts to mimic this group and it’s protective fundamentals.

Like with many problems of governments and international agencies, one of the main issues with properly combatting poaching is the lack of funds and resources. This grass-roots militia is the proof of supplemental solutions to such problems. While some rangers truly believe in the cause, the real incentive to protect the elephants comes from ulterior reasons, namely economic ones. “These citizen-rangers are not doing this out of altruism or some undying love for pachyderms. They do it because in Kenya, perhaps more than just about anywhere else, wildlife means tourists, and tourists mean dollars — a lot of dollars.” Therefore what can be learned from the development of this group is that problems governments may be unwilling or unable to confront often may have other, private solutions. All you need is the right economic incentive to encourage action.

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