A statement from the Indigenous peoples’ Forum at an international conference in 2004 summed this up:

‘First we were dispossessed in the name of kings and emperors,

later in the name of state development, and now in the name of conservation.’

Exclusionary ‘fortress conservation’ has in recent decades been increasingly militarised – barbed wire fences, park rangers trained by foreign armies carrying automatic rifles, drone surveillance and other military technologies are common sights in protected areas around the world.

This frontline militarisation is directly associated with huge numbers of rights abuses against these dislocated communities – including restraining their access to local natural resources they need to survive, sexual abuse towards local women(men too), rape and other forms of gender-based violence, murder, torture, unlawful arrest and detention, physical beatings, destruction and theft of personal property, torture and harassment.

“Paradoxically, once a national park or wildlife reserve is established, the same groups who kicked out the locals then welcome thousands of other (paying) people onto the land. Many protected areas encourage tourism, facilitate trophy hunting, or permit logging, mining or other resource extraction. Under fortress conservation, the ecosystem is not simply preserved in its natural state, it is managed according to economic imperatives.”

– Sophie Grig, The Independent

This violence and land appropriation against Indigenous peoples are not isolated cases, they are common practice in fortress conservation, because it is premised on forcibly removing local people from the land, in order to “protect it”. These mass evictions don’t actually serve any ecological purpose, since these communities have taken care of the land for centuries, which is precisely the reason why these lands have so much biodiversity and are selected as national parks. Yet, this is happening all over the world, constantly.

Watch a (non-exhaustive) map of conservation-related conflicts across the world by the Environmental Justice Atlas.

Click the button below, select “filter”, then “Category” and then drag the tag “Biodiversity Conservation Conflicts” in the green box and click, “Apply. As of 4th July 2022 the EJA identified 142 cases.

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