Securing Protected Areas: The Decision-making of Poachers and Rangers

Nick van Doormaal

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 2 (Research NOT UU / Graduation UU)


Despite considerable effort to reduce the harm, poaching continues to be a serious threat to many wildlife populations around the world. Strong and robust security of protected areas is an essential element of long term conservation success. Formal law enforcement, such as rangers patrolling a protected area, is a common security strategy used to detect and deter poachers. This dissertation explores the question, ‘how does the decision-making of poachers and rangers influence security of protected areas?’ To do this, we used a multi-disciplinary approach built on insights from criminology, wildlife conservation, and artificial intelligence. This dissertation focuses on the context in which poachers and rangers make decisions using a rational choice perspective. While the rational choice perspective was originally developed for understanding the decision-making of urban offenders, this dissertation shows it can also be used for understanding poaching problems in protected areas. By breaking down the poachers’ crime journey, we were able to better understand why certain decisions were made leading up to a poaching event, but also when trying to escape the protected area. This information is beneficial to law enforcement managers to strategically deploy ranger teams. We highlight that managing and deploying law enforcement resources more strategically is just as important as increasing the number of resources. This is especially true if operations are affected by corruption. In this dissertation, we developed several methodologies to better understand, design, and evaluate patrol strategies, which can also be adjusted for other regions and other types of wildlife crimes.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • Ruiter, Stijn, Primary supervisor
  • Lemieux, A. M., Co-supervisor, External person
Award date18 Dec 2020
Print ISBNs978-94-6416-154-0
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2020


  • Wildlife crime
  • Rational choice
  • Criminology
  • Poaching
  • Agent-based modelling
  • Patrol strategies
  • Law enforcement
  • Protected areas
  • Corruption
  • Decision-making


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