Insurgency and Ivory: The Geography of Armed Conflict and Elephant Poaching in Africa

Muirhead 121
Thursday 15th March 2018 (16:30-18:00)
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Speaker:  Dr Felix Haass, German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA) and University of Freiburg

Title: Insurgency and Ivory: The Geography of Armed Conflict and Elephant Poaching in Africa

How do armed conflicts influence crime? While previous studies have identified a mutually reinforcing “cycle” between armed conflict and crime, our knowledge about the precise conditions under which rebellion shapes criminal behaviour during conflict remains limited. Felix addresses this gap linking the empirical example of ivory poaching in Africa to micro-level theories of civil war. He argues that ivory provides an income source for non-state armed actors who seek strategic control over territory.

As a consequence, we should observe particularly high poaching rates where elephant populations and rebels' territorial interests overlap. To test this proposition empirically, Felix matches spatially disaggregated ACLED conflict event data to information about poaching in 33 elephant monitoring sites across 13 conflict-affected African countries between 2003 and 2015. Controlling for unobservable site-specific differences and temporal shocks through site- and year-fixed effects, his research documents that rebels who seek strategic control over territory increase poaching rates between 7 to 30 per cent. This effect becomes substantially stronger in the context of weak political institutions and systemic corruption. These findings highlight the strategic territorial conditions under which armed rebellion shapes criminal behaviour and help explain why poaching rates differ among conflict-affected countries.