Concerns about poaching and trafficking have led conservationists to seek urgent responses to tackle the impact on wildlife. One possible solution is the militarisation of conservation, which holds potentially far-reaching consequences. It is important to engage critically with the militarisation of conservation, including identifying and reflecting on the problems it produces for wildlife, for people living with wildlife and for those tasked with implementing militarised strategies. This Perspectives piece is a first step towards synthesising the main themes in emerging critiques of militarised conservation. We identify five major themes: first, the importance of understanding how poaching is defined; second, understanding the ways that local communities experience militarised conservation; third, the experiences of rangers; fourth, how the militarisation of conservation can contribute to violence where conservation operates in the context of armed conflict; and finally how it fits in with and reflects wider political economic dynamics. Ultimately, we suggest that failure to engage more critically with militarisation risks making things worse for the people involved and lead to poor conservation outcomes in the long run.