Wildlife crime is big business – and it’s getting bigger. It is the fourth largest transnational crime in the world, after narcotics, counterfeiting, and human trafficking. And it is worth at least $17 billion a year. The World Wildlife Fund recently said that in 50 years of conservation work, it has never seen wildlife crime on the scale that it exists today.
Wildlife crime includes poaching, trafficking and illegal logging (which destroys habitats). These crimes are severe threats to the survival of many species of wildlife, including elephants, rhinos and tigers. Not to mention the environmental and economic toll it takes on humans.
Despite the prevalence of wildlife crimes, they are often hard to detect and prevent. But a new online whistleblower platform, WildLeaks, aims to change that. WildLeaks is a non-profit organization that offers an anonymous and secure place for whistleblowers to report wildlife crimes. Anonymity is of key importance, as wildlife whistleblowers may be involved in the crimes or may be subject to retribution for reporting crimes. WildLeaks allows them to blow the whistle without going to law enforcement officials or exposing themselves as a source to criminals.
Once whistleblowers provide information, it is verified by the WildLeaks global team of experts, which include California-based Elephant Action League, the Environmental Investigation Agency in the UK, Oxpeckers Center in South Africa, EcoJust in the Netherlands, Global Eye in Africa and Southeast Asia, along with many others. The team then determines whether to put together an investigation or go directly to law enforcement officials.
WildLeaks’ ultimate goal is to expose wildlife crimes and put the responsible individuals behind bars. The group recognizes that whistleblowers play a critical role in providing insider information that can lead to the identification, arrest, and prosecution of those involved in wildlife crime – particularly the masterminds of these crimes. As Elephant Action League project leader Andrea Crosta stated, “WildLeaks is not after little poachers. WildLeaks is after traffickers, traders, businessmen, corrupt officers, shipping companies—the big guys.”
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