Bare et al (2015 Environ. Res. Lett. 10 125010) ask an important question: is international conservation enough? Since the 1990's international conservation donors have spent over $3.4 billion on biodiversity conservation related projects in sub-Saharan Africa. Both donors and recipients have a right to know if this is effective. Surprisingly, this question is rarely asked. It is a difficult question—involving many rival social, environmental, and economic explanations. Bare, Kauffman and Miller uncover some interesting associations, supporting existing hypotheses and proposing their own: that conservation aid alone is insufficient to mitigate drivers of deforestation (and in some cases may even exacerbate forest loss). This controversial result warrants further investigation—but what is needed now is nuance and robustness in further analyses, to have more confidence in the critique and it's implications for international conservation aid.