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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Not Seeing the Cattle for the Elephants: The Implications of Discursive Linkages between Boko Haram and Wildlife Poaching in Waza National Park, Cameroon

1 Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley, USA
2 Departement Sociologie-Anthropologie, Université de Maroua, Maroua, Cameroon
3 Department of Anthropology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA
4 Programme Gestion Durable des Forêts dans le Bassin du Congo, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Bonn, Germany

Correspondence Address:
Alice Kelly Pennaz,
Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

The decline of wildlife in Central and West African border parks has been directly linked to Islamic terrorism in the region in media and government discourse. Using Waza National Park in the Far North Region of Cameroon as a case study, we show that wildlife declines in the park long preceded the appearance of Boko Haram, the extremist group best known for kidnapping over 200 girls in northern Nigeria. We also show that there is no evidence that Boko Haram are using wildlife products from the park to sustain their operations. Instead, the “poacher-as-terrorist” narrative obscures complex, historically embedded reasons for insecurity in northern Cameroon as well as massive losses of biodiversity in this region. The media and governments' focus on the “poacher-as-terrorist” narrative has important implications for the victims of Boko Haram, including mobile pastoralists. It is their cattle that are most likely a major source of sustenance and funding for the operations of Boko Haram. However, because these mobile pastoralist groups are “invisible” in the bush, their struggles remain ignored. We argue that the continued espousal of the “poacher-as-terrorist” narrative allows Boko Haram violence against mobile pastoralists to continue, and makes way for further environmental degradation in Cameroon's protected areas.

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