n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - South African conservation crime and routine activities theory : a causal nexus?

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Over the last few years the wholesale slaughter of rhinoceroses (rhinos) in South Africa has unceremoniously thrust conservation crime into the news. Not only is the wanton massacre of these animals abhorrent in itself, but it becomes even more so when one considers that they are generally being decimated on managed protected areas and nature reserves. During 2010, for example, 333 rhinos were poached across South Africa, 146 of them from within the precincts of the Kruger National Park, South Africa's premier wildlife conservation area. By April 2011 South Africa had lost a further 114 rhinos to poaching and current estimates are that in South Africa we will, on average, lose one rhino per day. Conservation law violations encompass many offences against the natural environment, a common one being wildlife poaching. Previous research has often described the extent and impact of poaching as offender behaviour. While it has indisputably contributed to an understanding of this crime and what motivates poachers, more research is needed to examine why protected conservation areas are so easily penetrated and wildlife populations victimised on a regular basis. Theory-based studies focusing on all elements of a crime, would add to the understanding of poaching. The qualitative enquiry in this article examines the efficacy of the Routine Activities Theory in order to assist the understanding of the phenomenon of poaching in protected conservation areas in South Africa. Data collected at conservation areas threatened by poaching, were analysed via this theory. Wildlife custodianship problems were identified with a view to both developing a framework for understanding the challenges being faced in this arena and empowering policy makers to more resourcefully initiate intervention strategies and control illegal hunting in these conservation areas.


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