Anti-poaching’s politics of (in)visibility: Representing nature and conservation amidst a poaching crisis

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32 Citations (Scopus)


Conservation organizations are increasingly using tourism and social media to raise funds and support for anti-poaching interventions. This article examines how these strategies represent poaching and the responses that are ostensibly needed to disrupt it. To do so, I draw on ethnographic fieldwork in the rhino poaching hotspot of the Mozambique-South Africa borderlands and analyze social media and tourism campaigns from organizations in the area. These campaigns emphasize violently decimated wildlife, threatened rangers, and the subsequent need for a securitized conservation. They obscure or neglect the social relations influencing poaching and related violence, other conservation priorities, and the implications of hardline enforcement measures and militarized anti-poaching practices. The strategic ways in which poaching is made legible and consumable to a broad audience and how this shapes conservation practice constitutes what I call anti-poaching’s politics of (in)visibility. I emphasize how this politics and its simplistic representations of poaching and solutions may undermine the long-term sustainability of conservation efforts in two ways. First, anti-poaching’s politics of (in)visibility vitalizes a militarized response, leading to negative social implications that alienate people adjacent protected areas. Second, it jeopardizes the mundane ecological management activities vital to effective conservation. Understanding anti-poaching’s politics of (in)visibility thus contributes to a more robust political-ecology of anti-poaching specifically, and of conservation in the current context of heightened commercial poaching and efforts to disrupt it more generally. The article ends with a discussion of how a politics of visibility might be harnessed for a more sustainable approach to the poaching problematic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
Early online date13 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


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