According to Doris Lin, an animal rights attorney and the Director of Legal Affairs for the Animal Protection League of New Jersey, poaching can be defined as “the illegal taking of wildlife, in violation of local, state, federal or international law”.

Differently from the past, where the poaching was realized in order to find food and survive, nowadays activities that are considered poaching include: killing an animal out of season, without a license, with a prohibited weapon, or in a prohibited manner such as jacklighting (the practice of shining a light into a forest or a field at night, to find animals for hunting); killing or thieving a protected species or exceeding the hunting threshold, nationally imposed; killing an animal while trespassing; supplying the market for exotic birds; illegal fishing or over-fishing; organized poaching of abalone and lobsters; killing protected wild animals to furnish the ingredients for Asian traditional medicines and acquiring laboratory animals for Western pharmaceutical companies.

In the major part of its forms, poaching supports businesses worth millions of dollars, with transnational operations, which involves people from different countries, with different interests.

Poaching has diversified motivations in the different parts of the world: for example, in North America, according to various sociological and criminological studies, this phenomenon is associate with commercial profit, trophies and pleasure in killing wildlife, as demonstrated by the story of Cecil the lion.

Otherwise, in African rural areas, the principal reason for poaching are poverty and the lack of employment opportunities.

The most important international laws against wildlife crimes are:

  • The United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES);

  • Mike, monitoring illegal killing of elephants. This system has been elaborated at the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CITES (1997);

  • Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) a comprehensive information system to track illegal trade in ivory and other elephant products.

  • International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN)

  • Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS)

  • African Elephant Conservation Act