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Poaching & Wildlife Glossary

This glossary serves as an encyclopedic database of terms and phrases relating to all aspects of environmental crime including wildlife poaching, anti-poaching activities, illegal logging, and related corruption. The glossary also includes terminology used by conservationists, anti-poaching rangers, and other groups that strive to restore and protect the environment. Use the index to the right to jump to phrases beginning with that letter or press “Ctrl” and “F” simultaneously on your keyboard to open a search dialog on this page to find a specific word or phrase.

The Glossary is maintained by PoachingFacts and is sourced from commonly used terminology from experienced anti-poaching rangers, law enforcement publications, and other experts in the field. Definitions and usage may vary by region or organization.

Index by Letter





























Anti-poaching Ranger – Sometimes shortened to “APR” or “ranger,” an anti-poaching ranger is an individual employed by a public or private organization or agency in the role of front-line wildlife conservation. Their primary goal is to reduce wildlife crime, deter criminal incursions into their areas of operation, and to apprehend suspects. Rangers may or may not carry law enforcement certification by state-recognized organizations and at times individuals may be temporarily deputized by law enforcement to permit the anti-poaching ranger to have additional responsibilities in apprehending or neutralizing poaching suspects.

Anti-poaching Ranger Training – Specialized training for anti-poaching ranger recruits or veterans in the areas of bushcraft, wildlife tracking, human tracking, field first aid, small unit tactics, firearms training, and related skills.

Anti-tracking – Also called “counter-tracking.” These are methods used to avoid detection by both poachers and by anti-poaching tracking teams. Methods include covering their tracks, creating false trails, splitting up to divide tracking teams, and other means of subversion.

Biosecurity – The concern for the health and safety of citizens from biological agents and diseases (SARS, ebola, anthrax) as well as related vectors causing mass deaths, famines, and economic damage. Also includes the security and health of local environments that citizens depend on for sustainable food, income, mineral resources, and tourism revenue but that can harbor diseases, invasive species, and toxic chemicals in the event of a resource spill or other disaster.

Bushcraft – Also called fieldcraft. The skills necessary to competently and safely move through a region while understanding the challenges and resources presented by the terrain, weather, flora, and fauna. An aspect of “survival skills.”

CITESConvention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Climate Change Crime and Corruption – Contravention of laws put in place to reduce greenhouse gases, limit air or water pollution, or illegal use or smuggling of Ozone-depleting substances. Includes carbon tax and carbon credit fraud committed by businesses or document forging groups and all forms of governmental corruption that allows businesses to evade relevant regulation or taxes.

Consumer Education – Relates to educating consumers in markets where illegal or exotic animals and their parts are available for purchase. In some cities illegal products are sold through state-run stores and consumers are intentionally misled as to the true source of the product.

Contact – A confirmed track, human sighted, or engaged in a restricted or private access area. A contact may include one or more persons, but does not distinguish between poachers, trespassers, or other unidentified individuals.

Cross-over Crime – Any type of activity that requires or allows individuals to commit other, unrelated illegal acts in addition to the original act. For example: a wildlife trafficker transporting illegally obtained lumber across international borders may forge documents to misrepresent his cargo, and thereby commits environmental crimes and fraud.

Deterrence – Methods used to preemptively reduce the threat of poachers in the local area, including communicating with local towns that anti-poaching is being increased in the area.

E-waste – Also known as “electronic waste” these electrical items and appliances typically require special disposal and recycling procedures to prevent heavy metals, cancer-causing substances, and other hazardous material from being released. Many non-hazardous but valuable materials can also be recycled from this, including gold, copper, nickel, and aluminum. Illegal e-waste dumping is a profitable industry as companies seek to dispose of electronics without the costs associated with proper disposal. Increasingly these electronics are smuggled or illegally sold to Asian and African countries which have fewer laws relating to hazardous waste dumping or which have fewer deterrents to illegal dumping.

Ecosystem Management – The complex task of analyzing, monitoring, and caring for a region with a unique network of plants and animals that rely on one another for food, nutrients, shelter, fertilization, and pollination.

Environmental Crimes – Any of a wide range of illegal activities impacting the people dependent upon the environment for food, water, health, safety, and revenue. Interpol identifies the following as forms of environmental crime: illegal wildlife trade; pollution of air, water, and soil; over-exploitation of fishing grounds; climate change crime and corruption; illegal logging; natural resource theft; and biosecurity.

Fieldcraft – See bushcraft.

FWSU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Hardwood – Strong, dense wood that is suitable for construction, flooring, and ornamental furniture. Many of the strongest and most desirable hardwoods, such as ebony, mahogany, and teak are slow-growing and come from exotic locations that are suffering from over-exploitation.

Hazardous Waste – Any type of waste which has harmful effects on humans. Heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, chromium, mercury, and lead can still be found in products including paint, CFL bulbs, certain jewelry, computer components, and other everyday items that humans regularly come in contact with.

Human-wildlife Conflict – Unwanted contact or violence between humans and wildlife. Baboons and elephants may raid farm crops, depriving subsistence farmers of their livelihood. Shepherds may kill roaming predators or intentionally kill predators in neighboring properties in order to protect their livestock.

Illegal Logging – Mass-deforestation, burning, and felling of trees in areas not licensed to be logged or on protected lands.

Illegal Timber Trade – The widespread local, national, and transnational trade of illegally acquired or smuggled timber products including hardwood flooring, wooden souvenirs made from poached wood, and ornamental furniture.

Illegal Wildlife Trade – The trade in illegally-acquired or internationally protected species. Also includes legally-acquired or gray-market species that have been given fraudulent documentation stating that they are allowed to be sold to consumers as pets, ornaments, medicine, or food.

KWSKenya Wildlife Service.

Local Crime – Crime occurring within the community or jurisdiction of local law enforcement. Within the purview of environmental crime this can include bushmeat poaching, theft of livestock and resources (clean water), wood poaching, predator persecution and other human-wildlife conflicts.

National Crime – Illicit activities happening within the boundaries of a nation and not relying on illegal aid, persons, or products from other countries being imported or smuggled in. National crimes may be under the jurisdiction of a higher level of law enforcement than regional or local crimes. In the United States the FBI and Secret Service have jurisdiction over many federal and inter-state crimes which cross regional boundaries or for crimes which have specific penalties regardless of which state it is committed in.

Natural Resource Theft – Depletion of mineral deposits (gold, silver, rare earth metals); forests; water in areas with scarcity; and other essential commodities from natural or sustainable sources.

Over-exploitation – Taking more from the environment than can be naturally replenished.

Over-exploitation of Fishing Grounds – Fishing beyond a company’s legal quota, commercial fishing without a license, unregulated fishing, and fishing in another country’s waters. A related impact on fish populations is the depletion of key species necessary for the sustainability of the fishing grounds.

Patrol – A planned or routine reconnoiter of an area or roadway. Anti-poaching patrols may be hours long, but some may be multi-day excursions across large properties or reserves.

Predator Compensation – Programs directed towards financially reimbursing or directly replacing livestock proven to have been killed by local predators: typically lions and leopards.

Pensions for widows and orphans of rangers – Programs that pay for funeral expenses for anti-poaching rangers and other wildlife conservation individuals that have lost their lives in the line of duty.

Poacher – A generic term for any of individual who may participate in illegal hunting, fishing, or logging. Some poachers may organize their own poaching team and provide their own funding while others may be sponsored by a criminal organization or wildlife trafficking cartel. Typically the transport of the product out of the region is handled by a middle-man or some other organization that can smuggle the product to its destination market. Types of poachers include:

Quarry – Another name for the person(s) or wildlife being tracked or pursued.

Quick Reaction Force (QRF) – A military term for a small unit ready to deploy to a “hot” area with little notice. Typically motorized and with experienced trackers that can be deployed at key locations to start a pursuit. Civilian organizations may prefer to use the term “Quick Response Team” (QRT).

Recon – Reconnoiter. To survey an area or gain a visual understanding of the terrain, ecology, and potential threats.

Regional Crime – Any incident involving illegal activity or illicit products within a region. Due to the porous nature of many nation’s boundaries a “regional crime syndicate” or a regional business acting illegally along the nation’s border can become a transnational problem.

Reintroduction – Releasing one or more animals back into their native historical range where they presently do not occur, but which has an ecosystem that can support them.

Restocking – Translocation of one or more animals from one area to another to insure that there are sufficient numbers. This is done both for conservation in areas that have historically suffered from population loss and for hunting reserves that need to replenish their game.

SANParksSouth African National Parks.

Second In Command (2IC) – The 2IC will take over the team in the event that the leader is incapacitated.

Sign – Perhaps the most used term for evidence of a quarry, but “track” is also used. Protocol dictates that sign only be identified and reported to headquarters by using reproducible methodology, reducing the likelihood of false positives. For detailed types of sign, see “spoor,” the Afrikaans term.

Snare – Typically a medium-gauge steel wire that has been looped several times into a sliding noose. The snare is easily and cheaply made and dozens can be set in an hour. When an animal’s leg or body moves through the snare it will get caught, tightening the noose around it, trapping it.

Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) – The routine.

Spoor – An Afrikaans term for sign (evidence of the quarry). Spoor is divided into two types: “Ground spoor” and “aerial spoor.” Ground spoor involves physical evidence while aerial spoor involves physical and sometimes evidence gained by sound or smell.

  • Ground spoor: Any physical evidence at ankle-height or below, including on the ground. This can include broken or displaced twigs, footprints and other evidence, and items attempted to be hidden by the quarry such as buried trash or human waste.
  • Aerial spoor: Physical evidence of the quarry above ankle height; the sound of gunfire, people talking, or activities related to poaching; the smell of smoke or cigarettes. Animal behaviors, particularly warnings from the Oxpecker bird, are also useful clues that there are other living beings nearby.

Superimposition – The layering of tracks, or spoor, on top of other clues that may assist in determining the characteristics, direction, or activity of the quarry.

Suspect – An unwelcome individual believed to have been in a restricted or private area; someone charged with a crime.

TANAPATanzania National Parks.

Terrain – The lay of the land. Grasslands, mountains, and sub-tropical forests are examples of large, regional classifications. The terrain of a given area is defined at a more detailed scale and is important when planning multi-day patrols and understanding the species that may be present in local ecosystems.

Timber – Also called “lumber.” Raw wood or logs from felled trees. Timber traffickers illegally transport timber without proper documentation or transport legal timber without paying customs taxes or forge documents, thus undercutting legitimate businesses.

Track – See “sign” or “spoor.” Can also refer to a dirt road.

Tracker – An individual with exceptional skills in observing and understanding evidence. Typically trackers operate in pairs, with multiple tracking teams operating at once in a single pursuit. One team pursues the original track of the quarry and another jumps ahead to find more recent tracks to follow. The first team will be able to provide insight into the number of quarries, risk factors associated with them, and general direction while the second team moves at a faster pace on the most recent tracks available.

TRAFFICTrade Records Analysis on Flora and Fauna in Commerce. A non-governmental organization specializing in analyzing and investigating wildlife trade and trafficking. They provide information and insight to private and governmental organizations and support legislation and enforcement efforts to insure that legal trade is sustainable and does not exploit protected species.

Trafficking – Synonymous with “smuggling,” trafficking is blanket-term for the illegal transport of goods, humans, animals, firearms, and drugs. Trafficking can occur between regions or between countries and many types of trafficking, particularly of drugs, guns, and wildlife, are considered “low-risk, high reward” crimes due to the challenges of detecting traffickers and illegal cargo.

Trail – A path. Also an identified, confirmed series of tracks or signs belonging to an individual or group of humans or wildlife. Individual tracks may diverge into multiple trails that must be tracked separately.

Transnational Crime – Incidents involving illegal activities or illicit products crossing or attempting to cross international boundaries. The term also applies to organizations and companies with illegal operations in multiple countries.

UNEPUnited Nations Environmental Programme.

UWA – Uganda Wildlife Authority.

Wildlife Conservation – Protecting wildlife and the ecosystems that they depend on. Insuring a healthy ecosystem creates the opportunity for wildlife to be healthy and successfully reproduce for future generations with minimal cost and input from humans. Wildlife conservation is a major component of wildlife tourism and photo safaris which contribute significant revenue to many African and Asian nations.

Wildlife Trafficker – An individual, typically working as part of a group or criminal organization, who physically transports or finances the shipping of illicit goods from one place to another. Most illegal wildlife products trace long, convoluted paths to its final destination and may transition from one wildlife trafficking group to another that is capable of getting the raw, unworked ivory or rhino horn to an airport or seaport where it can be shipped to a transit country or the destination country. Wildlife traffickers falsify documents, bribe local officials, and may buy a product outright to then mark-up for their wholesale buyers in another country. They may also finance local poaching syndicates to increase supply and provide weapons and equipment. Visit the Wildlife Traffickers page for real life examples.

Wildlife Rehabilitation – Rescuing an injured animal, or taking an at-risk animal out of the wild, and providing life-saving services. Ideally the animal would be released back into the wild at the appropriate time and place. Not all animals that are saved can be released, so they may become permanent residents of the rehabilitation center or wildlife sanctuary.

Weather, Temperature, Rain (WTR) –  Weather conditions to consider when observing spoor and determining the time that they were made. A footprint in mud would have been made after the most recent rain. Knowing the time and date of the rain informs the tracker as to when the footprint may have occurred, among other details.