Wildlife Crime Analysis: Data-Driven Nature Protection

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Wildlife Crime Analysis: Data-Driven Nature Protection

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study

    Computer Programming, Conservation

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    From the cruel slaughter of critically endangered rhinos for their horns to illegal hunting and the destruction of protected habitats, crimes involving wildlife evoke a visceral emotional response in many of us. But their very nature – indeed, the fact that they are offences in and against nature – poses particular challenges in policing them. 


    The term “wildlife crime” refers to any illegal activity involving protected species in nature. Poaching is perhaps the best-known form, but this act of killing is in fact just the most prominent of a variety of offences which supply the global demand for wildlife products.

    Drawing from lessons learned by urban police forces in combatting crimes such as burglary, robbery and theft, this course teaches you how to collect and analyse data about wildlife crime. It begins with a basic introduction: how this form of criminality is defined, the variety of specific offences which fall under the umbrella term “wildlife crime” and what agencies are responsible for enforcing legislation in this area.

    Building upon this foundation, we then explore the difficulties associated with studying wildlife crime – in particular, problems related to data limitations and biases. After that, you go on to learn the basics of crime analysis, situational prevention and problem-oriented policing so that you can link data-driven approaches to actually fighting wildlife crime. Meanwhile, the field trips and project expose you to wildlife in the Netherlands and the practical difficulties associated with protecting vast landscapes.


    At the end of this course you will: 

    • Understand the who, what, when, why and where of wildlife crime. 
    • Be able to identify spatial and temporal patterns in such crime. 
    • Be able to link crime analysis to prevention. 
    • Be able to formulate research questions and hypotheses regarding wildlife crime problems. 
    • Be able to collect and analyse data to answer specific research questions. 
    • Present your research findings.

    Interactive seminar, fieldwork, computer training

    Short research paper, presentation