Undoubtedly the ‘boots on the ground’ strategy is saving wildlife and the environment from exploitation. The investment into these monitoring teams is critical in stemming poaching and biodiversity loss. But here is the thing, why are these ‘boots on the ground’ activities expected and indeed applauded in the countries of say continental Africa, South East Asia and Latin America, but not considered necessary in countries like Australia? Could it be because the people who are the key perpetrators of biodiversity loss in a country like Australia are ‘white’ and ‘middle income’ and, so the belief is, the boots on the ground strategy isn’t needed to monitor this group?
In the same way that governments and philanthropists pay for boots on the ground to secure elephants and rhinos, why aren’t they paying for boots on the ground to protect say koalas or leadbeater possums in Australia or hen harriers in the UK? Because the boots on the ground strategy isn’t used in these countries, the people who step up to protect these species are called activists and can be arrested. While governments invest time and funding to deal with activists ‘unauthorised’ activity, no time or resources are put into developing a system of ‘autherised’ activities; namely well resourced monitoring teams of boots on the ground.
So, there is a hypocrisy to boots on the ground teams being seen as needed to protect wildlife from people living in impoverished black communities but are not considered necessary when the potential perpetrators are white, middle income or white, elite. Isn’t this just another example of double standards and, dare to say it, racism? Shouldn’t there be ‘boots on the ground’ to monitor wildlife and the environment that needs protection from the farmers, loggers, irrigators, miners, property developers, commercial shooters who are doing the wrong thing? In Australia there are plenty of examples of people in these groups breaking the rules, and the law, and doing it with impunity; the system is stacked in their favour and too many act accordingly.