In recent years, there has been a monumental increase in wildlife crime, resulting in an extinction crisis that threatens the global diversity of species, as well as the security and stability of many countries. Wildlife trafficking is a leading cause of the wildlife extinction crisis our planet faces today. Unfortunately, it is a multi-billion dollar global industry with a low rate of arrests and convictions. Because of its underground nature, detection is almost impossible through law enforcement officials acting alone. Protecting and incentivizing people to report illegal activity is crucial to combating this increasingly lucrative trade and the poaching that sustains it.
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National Whistleblower Center’s Global Wildlife Advocacy
The National Whistleblower Center’s Global Wildlife Whistleblower Program is comprised of legal and policy advocacy on behalf of endangered wildlife. NWC provides a confidential and completely secure online in-take form where individuals across the world can report wildlife crime and then connects whistleblowers to attorneys who can help submit their reports to U.S. authorities and apply for rewards under appropriate U.S. laws. The Global Wildlife Whistleblower Program was a Grand Prize Winner of the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge, an initiative of USAID in partnership with the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution, and TRAFFIC.
On the policy front, the National Whistleblower Center is proud to support theWildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act. This bill, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, would empower whistleblowers to report information about wildlife crime and strengthen the enforcement capacity of U.S. agents. It is a critical tool to stop the current wildlife extinction crisis. The NWC press release can be found here, and the joint press release from Reps. Garamendi and Young can be found here.
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About the Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Legislation
On January 30, 2019, Congressmen John Garamendi (D-CA) and Don Young (R-CA) reintroduced the Wildlife Conservation & Anti-Trafficking Act to the 116th Congress. The bill was originally introduced on May 8, 2018 in a similarly-bipartisan effort by Reps. Young and Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU). If implemented, this groundbreaking legislation will enhance the ability of informants around the world to detect and report wildlife crimes, with no additional expense to taxpayers.
Here are three key points about the bill:
- The bill strengthens wildlife crime detection by mandating whistleblower rewards for citizens and NGOs worldwide who report information on wildlife crime which results in a successful prosecution.
- The bill enhances enforcement mechanisms by expanding transnational law enforcement to stop wildlife trafficking at the source. Wildlife trafficking becomes an offense under federal racketeering and organized crime statutes.
- The bill increases wildlife conservation funding, as monies recovered by successful prosecution under said statutes and other wildlife protection laws must be put directly into conservation efforts.
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The NWC played a leading role in the campaign to inform non-profits and the public about this legislation and garner their support. NWC has successfully obtained endorsements from many high profile anti-trafficking and wildlife conservation NGOs. The following NGOs have endorsed the legislation:
- African Wildlife Foundation
- Animal Welfare Institute
- Association of Zoos and Aquariums
- Center for Biological Diversity
- Earth Day Network
- Environmental Investigation Agency
- Humane Society: Legislative Fund, International, and U.S.
- International Fund for Animal Welfare
- Mission Blue / Sylvia Earle Alliance
- National Whistleblower Center
- Natural Resources Defense Council
- Sea Turtle Conservancy
- Thinking Animals United
- Vulcan, Inc.
- Wildlife Conservation Society
- Conservation International
- Wildlands Network
- World Wildlife Fund
A coalition of endorsing organizations has written to Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources, and Ranking Member Rob Bishop (R-UT) to express their support for the legislation. With centuries of combined experience advocating to stop wildlife destruction, the signatories of the letter explain that this landmark anti-trafficking bill will radically increase wildlife crime enforcement and activate wildlife whistleblowers around the globe. Read the letter here.
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Take Action! Support the Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act by writing to your Representatives in Congress, urging that they vote in favor of landmark anti-wildlife trafficking legislation. We have the momentum – the time to take action is now!
You can also contact your Representative directly:
⇒ Here is where you can find contact information for your Representative.
⇒ Here are the talking points that you can use when making that call.
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Frequently Asked Questions About the Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act
Q: What is the Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act?
The Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Wildlife Trafficking Act is a bill that was reintroduced to the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. John Garamendi (D-CA) and Don Young (R-AK). It is a landmark, bipartisan piece of legislation that would enhance the ability of the federal government to detect and enforce wildlife crimes, thereby helping to reverse the global extinction crisis.
Q: What does the Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act do?
The Act would strengthen U.S. capacity, laws, and inter-agency coordination to better combat wildlife trafficking. The bill is powerful for three main reasons:
- It creates strong incentives for whistleblowers around the world to report trafficking crimes.
- It enhances laws that can be used to prosecute wildlife traffickers and makes trafficking an organized crime criminal activity under the RICO and Travel Acts.
- It mandates that all of the fines and penalties collected from successful prosecutions be used for wildlife conservation efforts worldwide.
Q: How are whistleblowers protected under the Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act?
The bill mandates confidentiality and anonymity for whistleblowers throughout the world, enabling them to safely report trafficking crimes. It incentivizes reporting by requiring rewards be paid to qualified whistleblowers whose original information results in a successful prosecution. Finally, it requires the responsible federal agencies to establish Whistleblower Offices to ensure whistleblower concerns are properly investigated and rewarded.
Q: How does the bill enhance enforcement?
The bill makes trafficking a predicate offense under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and Travel Acts. RICO is the most powerful anti-corruption law in the United States, and has been used successfully throughout the country to target and crush organized crime. Penalties recovered from successful prosecution under these laws would be mandated to go directly into conservation efforts. The bill is structured so that the prosecution of wildlife crime would result in fund generation for the protection of wildlife, at no additional expense to the U.S. taxpayer.
Q: How does the bill help wildlife conservation?
The law mandates that all the fines and penalties recovered from the traffickers be used solely for enhancing wildlife conservation worldwide. The law has the potential to generate millions of dollars, which would then be invested into the protection and restoration of critically endangered species. Similar whistleblower-based laws, such as the False Claims Act and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, have brought in millions of dollars annually into government coffers.
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Note that with the reintroduction is substantially the same bill, with even increased bipartisan support. The text of the 2018 bill can be found here. Some of the key changes of the reintroduced bill include:
- The authorization of multi-year grant awards; this same language was included in the bipartisan Multinational Species Conservation Funds Reauthorization Act (H.R.227) and WILD Act (H.R.5885).
- The provision that dedicates funding for great ape conservation at no expense to taxpayers, by redirecting any fines and/or penalties collected for Endangered Species Act and Lacey Act violations pertaining to Great Apes into the Great Ape Conservation Fund.
- The provision that dedicates funding for illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing enforcement, by redirecting any fines and/or penalties collected by NOAA Fisheries for IUU fishing violations.
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It’s time to contact your Representative in Congress, and urge them to support the Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act!
Take action by writing your Representative, or call them directly by finding their contact information and then using our talking points when speaking with them or a staff member. Calling or writing to a member of Congress is the most effective way to ensure that your voice is heard, and that your priorities are represented!
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MEMBERS OF CONGRESS TAKE ACTION:
- Read Reps. Garamendi and Young’s Joint Press Release!
- Rep. Garamendi also read a statement describing the need for the law in the Congressional record.
- Watch Rep. Bordallo’s speech at National Whistleblower Day celebrations in 2018:
READ OUR SPECIAL REPORT TO CONGRESS ABOUT THE BILL:
The National Whistleblower Center has released a report explaining the importance of this bill and demonstrating its potential effects to fight insidious wildlife crime. The report was released to members of Congress, urging them to support the bill.
U.S. GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE REPORT
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) vindicated the position of the National Whistleblower Center! After a year-long investigative process into the current implementation of wildlife whistleblower laws, the GAO issued a report which demonstrates that U.S. government agencies must take action to better enforce and combat the illegal wildlife trade. “This report reinforces the urgent need for Congressional action,” said Stephen M. Kohn, Chairman of the Board of NWC. The report proves that the current wildlife trafficking and extinction crisis is untenable, and that something must be done urgently. The full text of the GAO report can be viewed here.
Both the Department of Commerce (for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the Department of Interior (for the Fish and Wildlife Service), which implement the current laws on the books, have concurred with the GAO’s recommendations. This means that they will be moving forward with changing their current policies on the basis of the GAO’s recommendations – exactly what the National Whistleblower Center has advocated! To see the progress of these agencies in implementing the GAO’s recommendations, click on the recommendations section of the report’s page here.
READ OUR IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS OF FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE’S WHISTLEBLOWER PROGRAM:
The National Whistleblower Center understands the importance of in-depth research and analysis. NWC used the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) requests to conduct an in-depth analysis of Fish and Wildlife Service’s whistleblower program and its payment of rewards from 2003-2016. The National Whistleblower Center provided the agencies with this report in order to demonstrate the need to reform. Read our original report here.
The National Whistleblower Center has published an updated report explaining how the Departments of Commerce and Interior should implement the GAO’s recommendations, drawing upon the lessons learned from the cases analyzed from the FOIA production documents. The report has the most up to date information and is required reading for anyone who wants to have an in-depth understanding of how these laws should and could work. Read the updated report here.
Although the Fish and Wildlife Service has begun taking steps to implement reforms and build a successful program as Congress intended, there is still more work to do. Read about the documents made public by the National Whistleblower Center’s work, and what we are doing today here.
LEARN MORE ABOUT WHY THE BILL WILL WORK:
- The Whistleblower Protection Blog featured a series of six articles about the Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act. These posts have been combined, along with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Crossroads Blog by Scott Hajost, Managing Director of the Global Wildlife Whistleblower Program, into an issue report by the National Whistleblower Center. For an in-depth look at what exactly the bill does and why it will work, read the report here.
- The National Whistleblower Center has published a report on the use of best practices for whistleblower reward programs – which have been proven to create the greatest incentive for those with information to step forward and provide law enforcement with the information necessary to halt fraud, bribery, and other crime! The report particularly focuses on the wildlife trafficking crisis, and how the Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act uses those proven best practices in the proposed legislation. Read the report here.
LEARN MORE ABOUT WILDLIFE WHISTLEBLOWERS:
- Chairman of the Board of the National Whistleblower Center, Stephen M. Kohn, is an internationally recognized expert on whistleblower law. He wrote the article “Monetary Rewards for Wildlife Whistleblowers: A Game-Changer in Wildlife Trafficking Detection and Deterrence,” published by the Environmental Law Reporter. The article highlights the need for a qui tam law to fight wildlife trafficking and has been used as a resource by many aiming to halt wildlife trafficking.
- Learn about the NWC’s Global Wildlife Whistleblower Program and its confidential transnational reporting system, which protects whistleblowers’ identities and educates them about their rights to obtain rewards for reporting wildlife crimes.
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Take Action! Support the Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act by writing to your Representatives in Congress, urging that they vote in favor of this landmark anti-wildlife trafficking legislation. We have the momentum – the time to take action is now!
Looking to do even more? You can also contact your Representative directly:
⇒ Here is where you can find contact information for your Representative ⇐