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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 13  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 356-369

Conservation Meets Militarisation in Kruger National Park: Historical Encounters and Complex Legacies

Department of Geography, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Correspondence Address:
Elizabeth Lunstrum
Department of Geography, York University, Toronto, Ontario
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-4923.179885

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Drawing on environmental history and political ecology, this paper contributes to growing debates concerning military-environment encounters and conservation militarisation/securitisation by investigating the complex histories and legacies of these relations. Grounding my insights in South Africa's iconic Kruger National Park, I chart how encounters between environment and military/security activity over the last century offer a repeatedly contradictory picture: military activity, skills, and weapons have harmed wildlife and hence reinforced the need for its protection, and they have simultaneously been deployed in the name of such protection. Furthermore, some of these historical engagements failed to materialise as planned and, as such, provide insight into military-environment frictions as well as nature's ability to thwart militarised interventions. Yet other engagements thrived and resulted in the multi-layered militarisation of Kruger, as both protected area and strategic borderland. Several of these encounters have lived on to shape Kruger's current intensive militarisation tied to rhino poaching, both the state response and poaching itself. Past military activity, in fact, provides an arsenal of enabling factors for current poaching- and conservation-related militarised violence that ultimately proves harmful to conservation efforts.

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