Whistleblowers & the Illicit Global Wildlife Trade
Whistleblowers with original information can be crucial tools to identify and report wildlife crimes and violations to the appropriate law enforcement authorities. A whistleblower is someone who discloses information that would otherwise not be known regarding potential violations of law. In doing so, whistleblowers can receive rewards for reporting violations that contribute to successful prosecutions.
The theory of why whistleblowing works is centered on a cycle of accountability. Successful prosecutions resulting from whistleblower tips create a five-step cycle: (1) encouragement of whistleblowing; (2) detection and reporting by whistleblowers; (3) prosecution based on whistleblower disclosures; (4) sanctions that sponsor the continued detection of crime and deter future crime; and (5) use of collected proceeds to benefit the public through restitution and rewards. This is a system that rewards those that follow the law and curbs illegal activity by altering behavior through financial incentives and good governance.
The United States has a robust scheme of whistleblower rewards laws afforded to U.S. and non-U.S. whistleblowers. These laws encourage whistleblowers to provide information that can be used in court to prosecute illegal wildlife traffickers. The Lacey Act is one such reward law suited to combatting the illicit global wildlife trade.
The Lacey Act prohibits the trade and sale of any fish, wildlife or plant taken in violation of U.S. law, Indian law, or in interstate or foreign commerce where the wildlife was illegally sourced. Its whistleblower provision readily rewards any person who brings information regarding the sale and trade of any fish, wildlife or plant that leads to the prosecution of wildlife crimes. Reward laws such as this are proven to incentivize whistleblowers to engage in potentially job- or life-threatening acts such as reporting wildlife crimes and violations.
Reporting Wildlife Crime:
A variety of U.S. laws, like the Lacey Act, exist to target illegal wildlife trafficking and activities that enable trafficking. These wildlife laws also offer similar monetary rewards for whistleblowers who provide information on violations that result in successful enforcement actions. The National Whistleblower Center also provides legal assistance to whistleblowers with original information about illegal wildlife trafficking through our Legal Assistance Program. NWC works with an independent public interest law firm, the National Whistleblower Legal Defense and Education Fund, which provides a secure intake form that allows whistleblower to submit evidence of wildlife crime and information about their case on a confidential basis. Once submitted, the intake form will be reviewed by a highly qualified whistleblower attorney in our Cooperating Attorney Network. You can learn more about our legal program here.
Illegal Activities To Report:
- Buying or selling illegal wildlife products.
- Bribing foreign government officials.
- Importing or exporting illegal wildlife products.
- Providing false information on customs forms at U.S. ports.
- Shipping or transporting illegal wildlife products.
- Laundering money earned from trafficking.
- Offering or purchasing illegal hunting guide services.
- Participation of U.S. citizens or U.S. corporations.
- Involvement of international companies, such as shipping companies, that are publicly traded anywhere in the world. Goods destined for, or entering/exiting, the U.S. persons with U.S. bank accounts, or use of U.S. bank accounts or other financial institutions.
Visit the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page on wildlife whistleblower laws to learn more.