Problem oriented Wildlife Protection

A quote from a recent scientific article reads: “Conservation is not rocket science…it is far more complex than that.” And that is actually the reason why Dr. Andrew Lemieux is so interested in studying wildlife crimes. On Tuesday 26th of June, the Future for Nature Academy invited Andrew to share his experiences and knowledge on wildlife crime in a public lecture in Amsterdam.

Andrew is a researcher at the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement in Amsterdam where he is the coordinator of the wildlife crime research cluster. Straight from the beginning, Andrew dived into the different scientific methods that he uses in his research. Andrew approaches wildlife crime from a criminological perspective, and is particularly focused on applying lessons learned from research on crime prevention and policing to improve wildlife protection. While criminology and conservation may seem an odd combination at first; often we hear from wildlife biologist or ecologist about poaching as a major threat to plants and animals worldwide. Andrew explained to the audience that criminology has actually a lot to offer.

Andrew then went on in explaining that a defining a specific problem is key for the success of successfully fighting crime. For example, projects that aim to prevent crimes in Amsterdam are likely to fail simply because they are too vague. Or as Andrew put it: “Poaching isn’t poaching isn’t poaching”. He stresses the need for first defining a specific problem, before thinking about what the solutions could be: A project that aims to reduce bike theft at train stations in Amsterdam is already a much better defined and this helps to identify appropriate solutions. This is what Andrew refers to as ‘problem-oriented wildlife protection’. This concept is already being implemented in several sites in South-East Asia, specifically aimed at protecting tiger populations.

Finally, Andrew emphasized the need for wildlife crime analysts that help identifying problems and break them up into manageable pieces for law enforcement rangers. In other words: “the human element in conservation is key!”

Andrew’s experience with rangers in the field and his interesting, criminological approach gave us a lot to think about. While at first, it may seem a very daunting task trying to deal with all these different angles, but the message was clear: it can be done! It was great to see that so many people with different background joined this lecture. I think I speak for all the participants when I say that we learned a lot that evening!

By Nick van Doormaal