Poaching and other wildlife crimes represent the single greatest threat to at-risk species, including tigers, lions, elephants, rhinos, apes and many more. Illegal logging of precious forested areas destroys habitat and ruins ecosystems. These crimes often go unreported because poachers and illegal loggers are a danger to the people who know what they’re up to.
“WildLeaks is a venue for those with pertinent information to share their knowledge while remaining anonymous and without going directly to law enforcement officials,” project leader Andrea Crosta told National Geographic. “We’re hoping to receive information that can help us launch or continue an investigation.”
WildLeaks is the joint project of a coalition of groups led by the Elephant Action League. Joining EAL are the U.K.’s Environmental Investigation Agency, the Netherlands-based EcoJust, South Africa’s Oxpeckers Center, 100Reporters, GlobalEye, and a number of other groups.
“Public tip-offs to enforcement is the key to shutting down wildlife crime,” Kevin Bewick, head of the Anti-Poaching Intelligence Group of Southern Africa, told National Geographic.
Going After the Major Players in Illegal Wildlife and Forestry Crime
Worldwide, wildlife crime is considered the fourth largest transnational crime. It’s a $17 billion industry, following closely on the heels of narcotics, counterfeiting and human trafficking. That’s why WildLeaks is not looking to bust small-time poachers and loggers. Rather, its aim is to stop the big fish — traffickers, traders, dealers, shipping companies, corrupt businesspeople and government officials, and major criminal operations.
According to Andrea Crosta:
The criminal syndicates and groups behind wildlife crime are ahead of us, faster, more coordinated, and better connected. New and innovative approaches are urgently needed.
From my past work in security, I saw in many fields that this leaks-based approach works. Of course it takes time. You have to build trust. But organizations that have a service like this actually get usable and pertinent information through this system. So I thought, let’s have it for wildlife and forest crime. Let’s build something neutral and independent that can reassure the person who has the information that they will remain anonymous.
The information WildLeaks hopes to obtain from the public includes:
- Names and personal information about wildlife traffickers and illegal loggers
- Information about specific criminal undertakings
- Documentation showing a financial connection to a wildlife/forestry crime
- Identity of ships and shipping companies working with traffickers
- Identity of businesses working with illegal loggers
- Names of corrupt public officials
- Names of shops and factories dealing with illegal wildlife products like ivory
Whistleblowers can provide information and even upload photos and videos to the site as evidence. Users may remain totally anonymous if they feel it’s necessary to their safety. WildLeaks will evaluate all information submitted to decide the most effective way to handle it. Options include launching an investigation, sharing the information with trusted law enforcement partners or leaking it to the media.
“There’s no rule, but the goal is always to expose wildlife crimes and put the responsible individuals behind bars,” Crosta said.
“The goal of WildLeaks is to give voice to the powerless, to both animals and the humans who risk their lives to protect them,” said WildLeaks founding member Bryan Christy, National Geographic Special Investigations director.
Bravo to the developers of WildLeaks. Give the public the tools to help stop these criminals and we will use them. Poachers and illegal loggers beware — we’re coming for you.
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