Whistleblowers: Our Secret Weapon in the Fight Against Wildlife Trafficking

The illegal wildlife trade is wiping entire species from our planet, and causing irreparable damage to our biological ecosystems. Despite all of the national and international government regulations and anti-poaching measures by nonprofit groups and other organizations, wildlife trafficking is an incredibly lucrative trade that continues to thrive, valued at $7 – 23 billion per year.

If there is any hope of tackling the global wildlife trafficking epidemic, we must turn to practical, proven methods to find a sustainable solution. Harnessing the power of whistleblowers to combat wildlife crime would be an absolute game-changer (Stephen Kohn, Monetary Rewards for Wildlife Whistleblowers).

Why Incentivize People to Report Wildlife Crime?

The illegal wildlife trade is a vicious cycle. Poachers benefit from the high premium of endangered species, and as the population plummets, their market value surges. National and international laws are difficult to enforce, and the global movement of the trade provides ample opportunities for bribery and corruption across borders.

Reporting criminal activity, or ‘blowing the whistle’, often puts the whistleblower in very real danger, and can involve great personal sacrifice. This is especially true when the crimes are committed by transnational criminal networks, running human, wildlife and drug trafficking rings, which are commonly intertwined.

Rewarding the brave individuals who choose to take these tremendous risks to do the right thing, is crucial to incentivizing others to follow. 

Underground crimes like trafficking are deeply rooted in secrecy, corruption and bribery, and are near impossible to detect by law enforcement alone. Authorities rely hugely on insiders providing information to be able to effectively infiltrate these criminal networks. To combat wildlife trafficking we must ensure whistleblowers are empowered, protected and rewarded.

The National Whistleblower Center recently launched the Global Wildlife Whistleblower Program, which aims to educate the public on the financial rewards whistleblowers are entitled to when reporting international wildlife crime. The global campaign asserts that whistleblowers are a powerful, yet largely untapped force in the fight against wildlife trafficking, and must be supported to speak out against wildlife crime .

As far back as 1981, Congress attempted to strengthen wildlife protection efforts by introducing monetary incentives for whistleblowers. They amended seven laws, including the Endangered Species and Lacey Acts, instructing several departments of the federal government—the Departments of Interior, Commerce, Treasury and Agriculture—to work with U.S. and non-U.S. whistleblowers to help stop wildlife crimes. Yet, for over thirty years, the U.S. government has never used these powerful tools, and has failed to establish a confidential, systematic process to receive wildlife crime reports and provide rewards to these whistleblowers.

The Proven Success of Whistleblower Rewards

Monetary rewards for whistleblowers are used in many successful laws outside of wildlife protection and have proven to be incredibly effective, causing rates of crime detection and prosecution to skyrocket! The original whistleblower reward law dates back to 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln signed the False Claims Act with the aim of exposing fraud on the government. Since then laws have been modernized to include whistleblower rewards, and whistleblowers have accounted for 69% of all U.S. civil fraud prosecutions. Whistleblowers have recovered over 33 billion dollars for U.S. taxpayers (U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division Fraud Statistics). Today, the Department of Justice (DOJ), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) all operate successful whistleblower programs.

Image Credit: Daniel Marasco

Empowering Whistleblowers Everywhere

The National Whistleblower Center is determined to ensure that the agencies responsible for implementing the wildlife whistleblower provisions take the extinction crisis seriously, and use all of the resources they have to fight it. Empowering potential whistleblowers to report wildlife trafficking, illegal logging, and fishing would revolutionize the detection, prevention, and prosecution of global wildlife crime. But time is running out.

Demand the Departments of Interior, Commerce, Treasury, and Agriculture set up a wildlife crime whistleblower program, and help spread the word on why supporting whistleblowers is crucial to saving our planet’s wildlife.

Get involved now:

Act – Sign the NWC’s letter to the President and Secretaries of Interior, Commerce, Treasury, and Agriculture, urging them to set up a wildlife crime whistleblower program immediately.

Share – Post this article on your social media to educate others on real solutions to the global threats wildlife face.

Sign Up— Join our Action Alert Network to support whistleblower rights and receive breaking whistleblower news.


Images Credit: Daniel Marasco

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