WASHINGTON, D.C. | December 19, 2019 — After deliberations in the House and Senate, the Rescuing Animals with Rewards Act, or RAWR Act, (S.1590) was included into the final Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations bill passed today (H.R.1865). The Act strengthens incentives for those with evidence of illegal wildlife trafficking to bring that evidence to law enforcement. The National Whistleblower Center thanks Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Susan Collins (R-ME), and Representatives Vern Buchanan (R-FL) and Dina Titus (D-NV) for their efforts on this bill.
John Kostyack, Executive Director of NWC, commended the RAWR Act’s passage, stating, “This bipartisan victory recognizes the critical role of whistleblowers in the fight to save endangered wildlife. Rewarding those with knowledge of illegal trafficking for coming forward with that evidence will make a real dent in the worldwide campaign to stop trading in precious wildlife species like rhinos and elephants. By authorizing the State Department to provide rewards to whistleblowers in cases where law enforcement agencies outside the U.S. have the lead role, the Act adds an important new component to the arsenal of wildlife whistleblower programs.”
The RAWR Act, included in this spending package, adds wildlife trafficking to the State Department’s existing whistleblower program authorizing rewards to those who bring original information that aids in the successful prosecution of drug trafficking, terrorism and other crimes. This is a recognition that wildlife trafficking not only devastates endangered species populations, but it undermines the rule of law, provides funding for other crimes and jeopardizes the safety and economies of local communities.
Emboldening whistleblowers through reward programs is shown to optimize law enforcement by changing the risk-reward calculus for those with evidence of wildlife trafficking who are considering contacting law enforcement. With this bill, a powerful tool has been given to whistleblowers and law enforcement to combat the multi-billion-dollar illegal wildlife trafficking industry.
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