Wildlife crime is a threat both to animals and to the peace and stability of nations worldwide.

Many think crimes such as poaching and illegal marketing of wildlife products are the work of transnational organized crime groups, according to UCF’s William Moreto, an assistant professor of criminal justice.

However, Moreto’s research in Uganda suggests the perpetrators are more likely to be loosely based networks of individuals that organized crime groups may infiltrate in specific ways. Moreover, the nature of the networks varies depending on the stage of the market.

“The illegal wildlife market is complex with overlapping actors, transportation routes and props,” he said. “We need to study each of these components to better understand who exactly is responsible and how they operate. Simple, blanket concepts aren’t useful or effective when addressing this type of crime.”

Moreto shared these findings at a recent meeting in Washington, D.C., focused on threats and risks associated with transnational organized crime. The meeting was sponsored by the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of State, University of Paris-Sorbonne and George Mason University in Virginia.

This month he’s heading to the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR) in Amsterdam where he will be a visiting fellow working with international scholars in the field. The NSCR is one of the premier institutes in the world for criminology and criminal justice research, he said.

Moreto’s selection for these honors are clear indications his research is gaining international recognition.

“Will’s work is innovative, unique and boundary-spanning,” said Roberto Hugh Potter, interim chair of the Department of Criminal Justice. “Most researchers focus on either the criminal justice or wildlife conservation perspectives of poaching and trafficking. Will merges the two worlds in ways that few if any other researchers do.”

Moreto joined the department in 2013 after completing a dissertation at Rutgers University in which he examined law enforcement culture and operations in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. He has spent hours talking with and observing law enforcement rangers, as well as participating in foot patrols in the bush.

His newest publications include a report on ranger misconduct in The British Journal of Criminology and a forthcoming article on rangers’ perceptions of occupational stress in Oryx: The International Journal of Conservation. Articles in these journals, both top-tier, peer-reviewed publications, reflect the interdisciplinary nature of his research.

While in Amsterdam, Moreto plans to continue his study of ranger culture and factors that influence rangers’ ability to successfully defend wildlife and reinforce protections of endangered species. He’ll also collaborate on projects to further wildlife crime analysis, prevention and anti-poaching efforts.

“I’m humbled by the opportunity to work with colleagues at the NSCR,” he said.

Moreto’s visiting fellowship will be sponsored by the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement in Amsterdam and the College of Health and Public Affairs and Department of Criminal Justice at UCF.