Zero poaching and social sustainability in protected areas : a study of Chitwan National Park, Nepal
Sammanfattning: Protected areas (PAs) embody a historical legacy of value contestation and human exclusion. While the rise of community-based conservation in the 1980s sought to reconfigure this mechanism by running a counter narrative arguing that biodiversity conservation and development were mutually reinforcing objectives, exclusionary PAs continue to maintain a strong position in the conservation discourse. The militarization of PAs as a response to the rise in global poaching has allowed state and non-state conservation agencies to wield extensive power as a moral imperative to preserve iconic species. This undertaking is notable in the recent “zero-poaching” campaign, which aims to shut all incidences of illicit mega-fauna poaching within national parks. Supported by prominent conservation groups, the campaign has been able garner momentum after Nepal, one of its member countries, declared four non-consecutive years of zero poaching in its PAs. While conservation groups in Nepal repeatedly stress that they work in tandem with local groups in park buffer zones to deter wildlife crime and support community development, the mechanisms of these social transformations are less evident in the campaigns’ media reports, and their modes of operation less scrutinized. Drawing on concepts developed from Antonio Gramsci's studies on cultural hegemony, I review the historical development of anti-poaching from its roots in England in the 18th century to its internationalization in the mid twentieth century. The modern turn towards heightened militarization as a win-win solution for conservation and development is specifically studied within the context of Nepal’s Chitwan National Park (CNP), which has been globally recognized as a model for species protection after achieving successive years of zero poaching. I apply a document analysis to test the extent to which CNP adheres to zero poaching’s objective of local participation and inclusive development. Both state and non-state organizations have utilized the mass media to promote the idea of community-led conservation, but the park’s five year management plan reveals that it fails to fully incorporate guidelines from the zero poaching toolkit. Zero poaching marks a turn within international conservation to mainstream an anti-poaching strategy that follows on sustainability’s criteria of transdisciplinary research, mainly by promoting a management technique that aims to account for different value systems, views and interests of stakeholders across the supply chain of wildlife crime. However, to turn into a counter-hegemonic force in conservation, it needs to become a reactionary agent against the old framing of human-wildlife conflict and poaching that still inhibits holistic social sustainability in its target regions.
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