An electric fence surrounding a conservation area in West Virginia

Fortress conservation is a conservation model based on the belief that biodiversity protection is best achieved by creating protected areas where ecosystems can function in isolation from human disturbance.[1] Its implementation has been criticized for human rights abuses against indigenous inhabitants when creating and maintaining protected areas.[2]



Ecotourism money is argued to drive the eviction of indigenous people.

Main article: Ecotourism

It is argued that money generated from ecotourism is the motivating factor to drive indigenous inhabitants off the land.[3][4] The organization African Parks, whose President is Prince Harry, has as its motto "a business approach to conservation" and had at its outset that tourism is its key in making their parks financially sustainable.[5]


Conservation charities, the biggest of which is the World Wildlife Fund, have increasingly militarized the campaign against poaching. Such poaching is often by organized criminal gangs that prey on the endangered species and, in 2018, 50 park rangers were killed globally. African Parks has been at the forefront of militarization with training from South African, French and Israeli military personnel.[6] Veterans from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been recruited to teach forest rangers counterinsurgency techniques and ex–special forces operatives promote their services at wildlife conferences. This has often involved recruiting paramilitary groups who are then supplied with military grade weaponry.[7]


Transferring land rights to indigenous inhabitants is argued to efficiently conserve forests.

Some conservation groups argue for the fortress conservation model with the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, an outcome of the 2022 United Nations Biodiversity Conference, arguing for the 30 by 30 initiative to designate 30% of Earth's land and ocean area as protected areas by 2030.[6] While the fortress conservation model views human as being inherently destructive to the environment, some have argued that the most efficient conservation methods involve transferring rights over land from public domain to its indigenous inhabitants, who have had a stake for millennia in preserving the forests that they depend on.[8] This includes the protection of such rights entitled in existing laws, such as the Forest Rights Act in India, where concessions to land continue to go mostly to powerful companies.[8] The transferring of such rights in China, perhaps the largest land reform in modern times, has been argued to have increased forest cover.[2][9] Granting title of the land has shown to have two or three times less clearing than even state run parks, notably in the Brazilian Amazon. Even while the largest cause of deforestation in the world's second largest rainforest in the Congo is smallholder agriculture and charcoal production, areas with community concessions have significantly less deforestation as communities are incentivized to manage the land sustainably, even reducing poverty.[10] Additionally, evicting inhabitants from protected areas often under the fortress conservation model often leads to more exploitation of the land as the native inhabitants then turn to work for extractive companies to survive.[2]


The World Wildlife Fund has been accused of funding park ranger conflicts that push indigenous people off their land in national parks.

Up to 250,000 people worldwide have been forcibly evicted from their homes to make way for conservation projects since 1990, according to the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.[11] Another estimate put the total number of people displaced between 10.8 million and 173 million.[6]


See also: Ancestral land conflict in Botswana

In Botswana, many of the indigenous San people have been forcibly relocated from their land to reservations. To make them relocate, they were denied access to water on their land and faced arrest if they hunted, which was their primary source of food.[12] The government claims the relocation is to preserve the wildlife and ecosystem, even though the San people have lived sustainably on the land for millennia.[12] Additionally, their lands lie in the middle of the world's richest diamond field. On the reservations they struggle to find employment, and alcoholism is rampant.[12]


Baka people in Cameroon's Lobéké National Park have alleged abuse by park rangers funded by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).[7]

Democratic Republic of the Congo

In national parks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, such as Kahuzi-Biéga National Park, heavily armed park rangers come into deadly conflict with the pygmy inhabitants who often cut the trees down to sell charcoal.[13] The conservation efforts of national parks in the country are often financed by international organizations such as the WWF and often involve removing native inhabitants off the land.[14]


The creation of Chitwan National Park in the 1970s led to tens of thousands of indigenous Tharu people to be evicted. The World Wildlife Fund has been accused of providing high-tech enforcement equipment, cash, and weapons to rangers involved torturing Tharu living near national parks such as Bardiya National Park. Nepalese law was changed to give forest rangers the power to investigate wildlife-related crimes, make arrests without a warrant, and retain immunity in cases where an officer had “no alternative” but to shoot the offender while the park's chief warden has the power to hand out 15-year prison terms by themselves.[7]

Republic of the Congo

Forest rangers, known as ecoguards, dressed in paramilitary uniforms and heavily armed with funding from the WWF, are accused of torture, rape and murder of Baka pygmies in the proposed Messok Dja protected area as part of an effort to remove the Baka pygmies from the area.[11]


More than 150,000 Maasai people face eviction in Tanzania with moves to turn their lands into nature reserves for luxury safari tourism and for trophy hunting in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in Loliondo near the Serengeti National Park.[15] Previous attempts to forcefully evict the Maasai have alleged to have included burning their homes.[3]

United States of America

The preservation of Yosemite National Park under the advocacy of John Muir meant the expulsion of the Miwok and Paiute Native Americans.[16]

See also


  1. ^ "Critique of fortress conservation". SESMAD. Retrieved 26 May 2022.
  2. ^ a b c "How Conservation Became Colonialism". Foreign Policy. 16 July 2018. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Maasai herders driven off land to make way for luxury safaris, report says". The Guardian. 10 May 2018. Retrieved 6 June 2022.
  4. ^ "Who is ordering continuous attacks against Batwa people in DRC?". Deutsche Welle. 9 April 2022. Retrieved 26 May 2022.
  5. ^ van der Duim, René; Lamers, Machiel; van Wijk, Jakomijn (16 November 2014). Institutional Arrangements for Conservation, Development and Tourism in Eastern and Southern Africa: A Dynamic Perspective. Springer. p. 7. ISBN 9789401795296. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  6. ^ a b c "Conservation Protected Areas are a disaster for Indigenous People". Foreign Policy Magazine. 1 July 2022. Retrieved 1 August 2023.
  7. ^ a b c Warren, Tom; Baker, Katie (4 March 2019). "WWF Funds Guards Who Have Tortured And Killed People". BuzzFeed News.
  8. ^ a b "India should follow China to find a way out of the woods on saving forest people". The Guardian. 22 July 2016. Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  9. ^ "China's forest tenure reforms". Archived from the original on 23 September 2016. Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  10. ^ "The bold plan to save Africa's largest forest". BBC. 7 January 2021. Retrieved 16 September 2021.
  11. ^ a b "'Large-scale human rights violations' taint Congo national park project". The Guardian. 26 November 2020. Retrieved 27 May 2022.
  12. ^ a b c "Botswana bushmen: Modern life is destroying us". BBC News. 7 January 2014. Archived from the original on 25 March 2016. Retrieved 24 July 2016.
  13. ^ "Gorillas, charcoal and the fight for survival in Congo's rainforest". The Guardian. 22 July 2019. Retrieved 1 September 2019.
  14. ^ "Congo: The tribe under threat". Unreported World. 2 June 2019. Archived from the original on 2021-12-12. Retrieved 1 September 2019.
  15. ^ "Tanzania's Maasai appeal to west to stop eviction for conservation plans". The Guardian. 22 April 2022. Retrieved 6 June 2022.
  16. ^ "Yosemite Finally Reckons with Its Discriminatory Past". Outside. 23 August 2018. Retrieved 2 June 2022.