The dangers of being a conservationist

Conservationists are happy, caring, passionate people who just want to make a change. They get to travel to amazing countries, see exotic animals, and earn some respect in the process. Or so it seems.

Aside from the possibility of contracting tropical diseases, getting food poisoning, and being bitten or stung by venomous insects, conservations have recently suffered a series of news-worthy attacks that brought my attention to the dangers of being a conservationist.

By Scdnr (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Scdnr (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

In Nepal, rhino conservationists Rupak Maharjan and team found themselves at gun point, at the mercy of hundreds of angry locals. The team were investigating reports of illegal poaching; it seems situations such as these are to be expected in such circumstances. Illegal poaching is hot topic with species rapidly on the decline and economic pressures amounting. Even museum staff have recently found themselves at the mercy of armed robbers, looking to steal the horns from the displays.

However, in Costa Rica, turtle conservationist Jairo Mora Sandoval was not so lucky, and was brutally murdered by drug cartels; beaten to death with sand stuffed in his mouth ‘as a message’ to the conservation effort. The team, protecting dwindling populations, were routinely threatened at gun point by the both poachers and the cartel. Whilst poachers would trade turtle products for drugs from the cartel, the dealers would in turn sell turtle meat on the black market; they also used the turtle beaches to smuggle away shipments.

By Hein waschefort (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Hein waschefort (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Further research showed conservations in Mozambique, activists in Thailand, biologists in Brazil, and environmentalists in Mexico all sadly lost their lives in the heat of their passions. It seems that in the modern world, with tensions running high in the final competition for resources, not even those that dedicate their lives away from human activity still suffer, economic and political instability contributing. An increase in awareness, policing, and stricter laws is arguably necessary to halt this horrific injustice.