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Should Wildlife Poachers Be Shot on the Spot?


The images are hard to get out of your head — the bloodied faceless elephant, the mangled hornless rhino. Sadly, these wildlife poaching incidents are increasing in number. In 2011, more than 25,000 elephants alone were killed for their tusks for the lucrative black market ivory trade that has a strong consumer base in Asia, according to the African Conservation Foundation.

Many countries around the world are thinking of new ways to deter these cruel killings and the dangerous rebel organizations that often fuel the hunts, like the al-Shabaab. According to Co.Exist, the U.S. government has invested $10 million to assist African anti-poaching efforts and another $80 million has been invested by the Clinton Global Initiative.

African countries are also trying to do their part by increasing ranger numbers and instituting strong policies to thwart poaching activities. Tanzania, in particular, has a new bill in the works that would strengthen the country’s weak penalties for wildlife crimes. But the nation’s Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Khamis Kagasheki, feels that even more extreme measures should be taken.

“Poachers must be harshly punished because they are merciless people who wantonly kill our wildlife and sometimes wardens,” said Kagasheki at the end of an International March for Elephants via All Africa, “The only way to solve this problem is to execute the killers on the spot.”

Kagasheki’s comment has the conservation community divided. While some agree that such measures should be instituted, others believe it would violate human rights and would lead to an escalation of violence.

Knowing his comment would draw backlash, Kagasheki added, “I am very aware that some alleged human rights activists will make an uproar, claiming that poachers have as much rights to be tried in courts as the next person, but let’s face it, poachers not only kill wildlife but also usually never hesitate to shoot dead any innocent person standing in their way.”

Over the years, poachers have become better organized and  gained access to more deadly weapons. A wildlife park’s weapons and manpower pale in comparison to a poaching army. According to the Thin Green Line Foundation, more than 1,000 rangers have been killed over the last 10 years while protecting animals.

Tanzania’s poaching problem certainly doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Co.Exist reports that poachers kill 30 to 60 elephants a day in Tanzania and, from 2009 to 2011, the country was ranked the top exporter of black market tusks.

But do these figures warrant a “shoot-to-kill” policy for wildlife poachers?

World Wildlife Fund’s country director for Tanzania, Bell’Aube Houinato believes they don’t.

“It is very true that poaching has taken such an alarming route and it’s obvious the government is getting worried. It’s important the punishment for poaching is a deterrent, but killing poachers is not part of the measures we have been advocating. It would lead to an escalation of violence; it’s very difficult to control who is actually killing. There are law enforcement and judicial systems and they should be made more effective,” said Houinato to The Guardian.

Yet, law enforcement and judicial system processes are already long and drawn out and are even slower in developing nations like Tanzania. While strengthening and speeding up these processes may be the most ideal approach, it’s not necessarily the most effective.

So, to shoot or not to shoot? It’s a difficult question, and perhaps one that has no clear, correct answer. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Do you believe shooting poachers on the spot is an appropriate determent method? If so, tell us why and if not, what other solutions would you propose?

Image source: Brian Snelson / Wikipedia Commons

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3 comments on “Should Wildlife Poachers Be Shot on the Spot?”

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1 Years Ago

Shoot those poachers...

1 Years Ago

Rangers who guard these animals need to be well-equipped to be highly motivated. I am willing to fund them. Need bullets? Will fund that too! These animals are precious... Too many humans and not enough of these animals who have a right to be here too. I\'m with the rangers. Shoot those poachers on sight!

Jacques Tremblay (from Canada)
3 Years Ago

Poachers should be shot on sight! There is something we have to be aware: it\'s a war. In war you shoot the first or you\'ll be the first shooted. Don\'t believe that poachers we\'ll be receptive to arguments such as «it\'s important to preserve the wildlife for the future of our children». They don\'t care. Money smells better. But tell them that they will be shoted if they do poaching and they will think twice. Results are there in Nepal, Bostwana and Swatziland. Their shoot to kill policies make poaching very low. So, don\'t hesitate, shoot them. (In the time I took to write ttter, about one or two éléphants have been killed by poacher)s.

Judith Basye
4 Years Ago

Poachers should be shot on sight! Their only there for one reason. To chop off the face of more elephants.So there is nothing to talk about. We shoot people just for trespassing!

sally naveh
4 Years Ago

Why the outrage??? Its ok to shoot and butcher elephants, rhino and all other wildlife so why shooting a poacher is any different?. I think its an excellent deterant.

13 Oct 2013

I agree. Strongest deterrent there is. Shoot them on the spot. No questions.

4 Years Ago

Violence begets violence. I'd want to find another way to handle this, though yes, my initial emotional reaction to that question is very much the same as what you all have written. I think we need to move beyond the emotional reaction however, and find a more compassionate solution. I would not want to contribute to all that is negative and wrong with this world.

4 Years Ago


09 Mar 2017

Agree with all who posted. Shoot those poachers... My prof. in college used to say that humans don\'t prize whatever is abundant, but whatever is scarce. What is most abundant on the planet right now? Humans... These people have no compassion for these animals who have a right to be here... Sorry, shoot them on the spot. Need bullets and other equipment to equip the rangers --bc there is nothing better than a well-equipped and motivated ranger-- let\'s start funding them I\'ll contribute funds too. Leave these animals alone!

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