August 12 is World Elephant Day, a day “to bring attention to the urgent plight of Asian and African elephants.” Asian elephants are marked as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, while the African elephant is marked as vulnerable.
“African elephant populations have fallen from an estimated 12 million a century ago to around 350,000,” according to The Wildlife Trafficking Alliance (WTA). Although many Asian elephants do not have tusks, they are still vulnerable to poaching and trafficking because of their use in the tourism industry and demand for their skin, “used in traditional medicine and shaped into polished beads to make jewelry.” Though the poaching mortality rates of elephants in Africa seem to have decreased in the past few years, the WTA asserts that “we are losing elephants faster than they can reproduce.” This is where whistleblowers and whistleblower laws come into play.
Whistleblower attorney Kelsey Condon highlights various U.S. reward laws that are “uniquely designed to combat such crimes in a recent National Law Review article. These laws provide incentives for whistleblowers with high-quality information to assist law enforcement in stopping criminal networks.” The Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act incentivize blowing the whistle on wildlife crimes, while other U.S. reward laws like the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act(FCPA) can also be used to fight wildlife crime. Condon writes that additionally, the Bank Secrecy Act, the USA PATRIOT Act, the FCPA, and the Securities Exchange Act “all cover the financial industry and penalize money laundering activities,” which are often tied to wildlife trafficking and crimes.
Scott Hajost, Senior Wildlife Policy Advisor for the National Whistleblower Center, thinks that rewarding and protecting wildlife whistleblowers is essential to fighting wildlife crimes. In a 2018 article, he details how whistleblower successes in corporate and financial fraud cases could be replicated in the wildlife trafficking business. “If we make reporting crime more lucrative than participating in it, there will be a sea change in how the wildlife crime industry operates,” wrote Hajost.
Strides are already being made to protect wildlife whistleblowers and promote whistleblowing to fight wildlife crime. The National Whistleblower Center’s Global Wildlife Whistleblower Program, a winner of the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge, works to educate about wildlife whistleblowing and provide aid to individuals who want to blow the whistle on wildlife crime and illegal trafficking.
This year, on World Elephant Day, let’s work towards a prosperous future for magnificent African and Asian elephants by protecting and rewarding wildlife whistleblowers.