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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 139-149

Rhinos as “The Mine” and the Fugitive Meanings of Illegal Wildlife Hunting

Department of Sustainable Development, Appalachian State University, North Carolina, USA

Correspondence Address:
Rebecca Witter
Department of Sustainable Development, Appalachian State University, North Carolina
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Source of Support: The College for Fine and Applied Arts at Appalachian State University provided financial support for the research., Conflict of Interest: NA

DOI: 10.4103/cs.cs_20_142

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Most scholarship and policy documentation that examines the problem of “rhino poaching” assumes that the potential for economic gain drives impoverished people to hunt threatened and endangered wildlife illegally. The amount of money illegal hunters can extract from the lethal trade in rhinoceros' horn is extraordinary. Yet, the provocation of one convicted hunter, who referred to rhinos as “the mine” (as in a gold mine) reveals complicated meanings underneath and adjoined to monetary explanations. In the transfrontier region comprising the Kruger and Limpopo National Parks, men have responded to colonial and post-colonial dispossession through institutions of migrant labour. When dispossessed mine labourers developed the wealth of southern African colonial states, they salvaged for themselves, economic benefits, status, and dignity. In the post-colonial context, the protection of threatened species forecloses opportunities for migrant labour and generates the need for “peripheral” or illegal labour. The killing of protected wildlife to trade in their parts enables hunters to extract money, cultural continuity, and dignity from the very processes that impoverish and dispossess them. Improved understandings of people's motivations to hunt wildlife illegally necessitate theorisations that are more explicitly co-produced, derived from and responsive to the people living (and dying) with conservation by dispossession.

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