The precipitous increase in commercial poaching across parts of Africa has been met by progressively more militarized responses. Amounting to green militarization, we now see national armies, increasingly paramilitarized rangers, military tactics, and even sophisticated military technology used to address the problem. Scholarly investigations on the topic have largely been approached from a political ecology perspective and hence have not made connections with the equally relevant field of critical military studies (CMS). We see this as a missed opportunity. This paper is thus an early attempt to begin forging these connections. At the most general level, we introduce green militarization – as a practice and realm of scholarly debate – into CMS. By bringing in environmental conservation and non-human nature, this offers a broader view into the vast areas of nominally civilian life that are increasingly militarized, a defining interest of CMS. Second, we draw from core CMS insights – especially regarding the link between development and security – to grasp changing practices and trends in green militarization. In particular, we illustrate how the recent shift towards softer militarized approaches amounts to poaching-related soft counter-insurgency, which we capture in the concept of the conservation–security–development nexus. Here, communities become the object of development interventions to ‘win hearts and minds’ and prevent their involvement in poaching, thereby neutralizing the security threats poaching might pose. We close by suggesting future areas of intersection between CMS and the political-ecological work on green militarization in hopes of inciting a deeper engagement.