This article examines the rise in militarized approaches towards conservation, as part of a new ‘war for biodiversity’. This is a defining moment in the international politics of conservation and needs further examination. The claims that rhinos and elephants are under threat from highly organized criminal gangs of poachers shapes and determines conservation practice on the ground. Indeed, a central focus of the 2014 London Declaration on the Illegal Wildlife Trade is the strengthening of law enforcement, and recent policy statements by the US government and the Clinton Global Initiative also draw the link between poaching, global security and the need for greater levels of enforcement. Such statements and initiatives contribute substantially to the growing sense of a war for biodiversity. This article offers a critique of that argument, essentially by asking how we define poachers, and if militarized approaches mean conservationists are becoming more willing to engage in coercive, repressive policies that are ultimately counterproductive. Further, this article examines how the new war for biodiversity is justified and promoted by referring to wider debates about intervention in a post-Cold War era; notably that the international community has a responsibility towards wildlife, especially endangered species, and that military forms of intervention may be required to save them.