Live by the gun, die by the gun: Botswana’s ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy as an anti-poaching strategy
Rhino and elephant poaching affects various Southern African countries. Despite recent reductions in rhino poaching in Namibia and South Africa, it remains a concern. In response, the government of Botswana has implemented a controversial ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy, targeting poachers. We believe this has reduced poaching in Botswana, relative to most African countries. Private rhino conservators from neighbouring South Africa have relocated some of their rhinos to Botswana. This commentary piece discusses the militarisation of conservation as a viable conservation policy. It argues that anti-poaching is comparable to the war on terror. It reviews Botswana’s shoot-to-kill policy and its justification in international law, specifically with regard to war and armed combat. It adopts an exploratory methodology to reflect on the effectiveness of Botswana’s policy, and considers whether it can be adopted by other countries, particularly South Africa, to combat poaching. It concludes that shoot-to kill is an effective deterrence to poachers when implemented alongside long-term conservation management interventions.