The "White Gold of Jihad": violence, legitimisation and contestation in anti-poaching strategies



Since 2011, elephant poaching and the illegal ivory trade have been labelled a "serious threat to peace and security". Rigorous military training and weapons have been provided to rangers, national armies have been deployed in protected areas, and shoot-to-kill policies have been (re-)adopted. Within the framework of political ecology, the article critically approaches this "war" for Africa's elephants. Adopting the tools of discourse analysis, it explores how such violence has been legitimized by the "transnational conservation community" and, in turn, how this has been contested by other actors. It argues that the "war" has been legitimized by drawing on two broader threat discourses – the ivory-crime-terror linkage and the 'ChinaAfrica' threat. Through the discursive creation of a boundary object, poaching has 'become' a human concern that appeals to actors typically outside the conservation community. In the final Section, the case of the Lord's Resistance Army's poaching activities in Garamba National Park is explored, to show how the knowledge upon which judgements are made and decisions are taken is ahistorical, depoliticized and based on a series of untenable assumptions.

Keywords: Conservation, violence, discourse, ivory, political ecology

How to Cite: White, N. (2014) “The "White Gold of Jihad": violence, legitimisation and contestation in anti-poaching strategies”, Journal of Political Ecology. 21(1). doi: