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.
The National Whistleblower Center is proud to support the Rescuing Animals with Rewards (RAWR) Act. The bill would add wildlife trafficking to the State Department’s existing whistleblower reward program.
The RAWR Act was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) and Dina Titus (D-NV) on January 3, 2019 as H.R.97 and referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and in the Senate by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Susan Collins (R-ME) on May 22, 2019.
The Act has passed Congress after its inclusion into the final Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations bill that passed in December of 2019. With this approval, the RAWR Act has become law!
The Letter of Support:
The National Whistleblower Center submitted a letter of support for the RAWR Act, addressed to the relevant committees of jurisdiction in the House and Senate. A PDF of the letter can be accessed here, and the content of the letter is reprinted below.
The National Whistleblower Center is proud to support the Rescuing Animals with Rewards (RAWR) Act.
The Rescuing Animals with Rewards (RAWR) Act has been introduced on a bicameral, bipartisan basis. It will amend the authorizing language of the State Department’s whistleblower rewards program, known as Rewards for Justice, to include wildlife trafficking. In the House, the bill has been introduced as H.R.97 and referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. In the Senate, the bill has been introduced as S.1590, and referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. This legislation could serve as another valuable tool in the fight against illegal wildlife trafficking and destruction. This is an additional avenue to pursue criminals who engage in wildlife trafficking, building on the existing body of law providing rewards that incentivize whistleblowers to step forward.
We applaud Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Susan Collins (R-ME), and Reps. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) and Dina Titus (D-NV) for their leadership in introducing and as original co-sponsors of the RAWR Act.
The whistleblower reward structure has been proven to work with decades of data. Whistleblower reward programs run by several different departments and agencies with enforcement capacity and subject-matter expertise, including the State Department, have brought in billions of dollars into U.S. government coffers. Most importantly, whistleblowers are incentivized to come forward with high-quality information that can assist U.S. law enforcement agents gain information and stop criminals and criminal networks.
The RAWR Act is an important new step in enlisting whistleblowers to make the U.S. government more efficient and effective.
The National Whistleblower Center urges the leadership of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to take concrete steps in support of the RAWR Act.
Supporters of the RAWR Act include the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the World Wildlife Fund, Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Humane Society Legislative Fund, which also support the Wildlife Conservation & Anti-Trafficking Act of 2019. As quoted from Sen. Merkley’s press release announcing the introduction of the bill, the group made the following statements.
“Wildlife trafficking is an epidemic that threatens extinction for iconic species including elephants, rhinos, and tigers,” said Kate Wall, Senior Legislative Manager for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. “As the fourth most lucrative illegal enterprise worldwide, it also contributes to global corruption and instability. IFAW applauds Sens. Merkley and Collins for their leadership of the RAWR Act, which would aid law enforcement in identifying and apprehending criminal wildlife trafficking networks.”
“Not only does wildlife trafficking fuel the decline of some of the world’s most iconic species, it also underpins international organized crime and terrorism. The RAWR Act would ensure that wildlife trafficking remains on the list of activities targeted by the State Department’s rewards program, providing a permanent tool to fight this pernicious and destructive crime. We thank Senators Merkley and Collins for introducing this bill, and in so doing continuing their leadership in fighting wildlife trafficking,” said Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.
“The Wildlife Conservation Society commends Senator Merkley and Senator Collins for their leadership in reintroducing the Rescuing Animals With Rewards (RAWR) Act to crack down on wildlife trafficking. Wildlife trafficking finances organized criminal syndicates undermining rule of law in foreign countries and threatening our national security. The legislation re-introduced in the Senate today provides rewards in return for information and tips on trafficking in endangered wildlife, thereby protecting our natural security,” said Kelly Keenan Aylward, Washington Office Director for the Wildlife Conservation Society.
“Wildlife trafficking is not only devastating wildlife populations around the globe, it is also financing criminal syndicates to the tune of billions of dollars a year. By clearly defining wildlife trafficking as a transnational organized crime and treating it with the seriousness that designation requires, the RAWR Act can be a powerful tool to help break up the illicit networks driving this lucrative illegal trade. The bill introduced by Senators Merkley and Collins and Representatives Buchanan and Titus represents another important step in Congress’ efforts to protect our planet’s threatened wildlife and combat wildlife crime,” said Ginette Hemley, senior vice president of wildlife conservation, World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
The National Whistleblower Center also strongly supports the H.R. 864, Wildlife Conservation & Anti-Trafficking Act of 2019. You can take action in support of wildlife whistleblowers and the law here.