Monday, April 6, 2015


Meet Kinessa Johnson, US Army veteran turned anti-poaching activist. Perhaps you've already seen her in your Facebook feed or on aggregator sites or elsewhere. If so, you've almost certainly seen an image, drawn almost verbatim from the Action Girl TV Tropes page (with a splash of Small Girl, Big Gun thrown in for good measure). She's a conventionally attractive woman brandishing a beautifully modded rifle in her glamour photos.

Walter Sobchak could learn a thing or two about how to hold a weapon
And make no mistake, those are glamour photos. She doesn't make eye contact (indeed, the brim of her cap often shields her eyes), her poses are all-action hero, and her costumes strike the perfect balance between alluring and intimidating designed to appeal maximally to her two audiences (contrast with the amateur shot used to verify the AMA). Who are her two audiences, you ask?

There are a few ways to reduce the incidence of poaching. In England's hanging days, they'd string you up by your neck on a silken rope if you were caught poaching the king's deer. Simple, direct violence often deters. So does the threat of violence. But one girl, no matter how badass, cannot wage war against poachers single-handed. Grim glares down gunsights mobilize donors, and if all's working well, the social media blitz sends a powerful, credible signal to folks on the fence about taking up poaching in the first place. No reasonable poacher would be scared off by one girl with a rifle, but some might reasonably be put off with the knowledge that well-heeled Westerners who love their action movies might be willing to put extra resources towards That Girl With The Gun. Extra resources means more anti-poaching patrols and better gear for the wardens.

Of course, she has to have her bonafides, or else it would just be another cheap celebrity ploy. And with combat experience in Afghanistan, I'd say she makes the cut swimmingly. Getting the tactics right is a matter of field maneuvers. Getting the strategy right, in this case to include some clever, creative glamour photography, is a cut above. Excellent work, Soldier.

Of course, there's another way to reduce the frequency of poaching. Economic growth. Poachers don't poach because they love the thrill of the hunt (not usually anyway). They do it out of desperation. If you've got peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice, you don't have to risk your life slaying elephants for their ivory nor rhinos for their horn. The lesser tragedy is the poaching. The greater tragedy is the misery of unfortunate circumstances.

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?