Wildlife Crime

William D. Moreto and Stephen F. Pires / Carolina Academic Press / 262 pages

Wildlife Crime: An Environmental Criminology and Crime Science Perspective is a timely and most welcomed book, but fair warning: It is not light reading! Rather, it is a rigorous university textbook, apparently intended for students enrolled in criminal justice curricula, who want to specialize in protecting wildlife from illegal exploitation. Publication of this book—which applies traditional criminology concepts (e.g., crime pattern theory, routine activity theory) to the understanding of wildlife crimes—is a hopeful sign that universities are expanding their criminal justice programs to address such crimes. That alone is cause for celebration.

The most encouraging aspect of this book is its great emphasis on deterrence. All criminal trafficking may be viewed as a sequence of events: One criminal acquires the contraband; another smuggles it; someone else bribes an official to “look the other way”; a skilled technician fabricates the contraband into a salable item; an accountant handles the illegal banking and money laundering needed to pay everyone; a local dealer delivers the goods to the consumer.

It is much the same for wildlife as it is with drugs, illegal weapons, bootlegged perfume, pirated DVDs, and other types of goods trafficking. In almost all such cases, society’s interests are served if the chain of criminality is cut anywhere, so as to keep the contraband from reaching the consumer. Keep drugs out of the hands of users, keep guns out of the hands of robbers. But in wildlife crime, society’s interests are the protection of the live animals in their natural habitat. Preventing the poacher from actually killing or trapping an animal is a fundamental priority. By the time a crate of ivory or exotic furs is seized, the animals are already dead.

Deterrence, therefore, should be an essential element of wildlife criminology. The Moreto-Pires text underscores this admirably, and thus earns a place within the library of anyone with serious interest in suppressing crimes that consume the lives of millions of animals every year.