Poachers and Illegal Loggers Beware: Now Whistleblowers Can Bring You Down

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.

A new website, which launched on Feb. 7, hopes to solve that problem. WildLeaks lets anyone who knows about wildlife or forestry crimes report online what’s going on, anonymously if necessary.

“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
rhino horns

Illegally poached rhinocerous horns. Photo credit: Thinkstock

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.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Mark Donner
Mark Donner3 years ago

drones against poachers (cont)

"Use of drones has shown that we can prevent poaching and arrest many poachers on their tracks,” Paul Udoto, spokesman for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), told the Guardian. “The pilot project has been a success and we are working with many partners including the Kenya police, the National Intelligence Service, and a lot of international partners such as Interpol, Ugandan and Tanzanian governments."

The drones will provide 24-hour aerial surveillance and spot poachers before they kill wildlife. The $103 million project, funded by the governments of Kenya, Canada, the U.S., Netherlands and France, will also employ other technology like firearms, bulletproof vests and night equipment to save wildlife like rhinos and elephants. The push comes not a moment too soon -- poachers have killed 18 rhinos and 51 elephants in 2014 so far.

"Poaching is a menace and we have realized something had to be done,” William Kiprono, KWS director, told the Guardian. “That is why we decided to come up with the idea to use drones. This is a project that may even last a lifetime as long as poaching remains a problem and the global demand for wildlife products continues to increase."

Mark Donner
Mark Donner3 years ago

Glimmer of hope and a blow against the planet rapers:

April 25, 2014:

News broke today that, after a wildly successful pilot program, Kenya will be deploying drones in all 52 of its national parks and reserves. Amazingly, the pilot program found that drones reduced poaching by up to 96 percent in a major protected wildlife area -- a figure conservationists hope will prove true for the rest of the country’s parks.

Ana MESNER3 years ago

Thank you.

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson3 years ago


Mark H.
Mark H3 years ago

ty... hope it helps!

Kamia T.
Kamia T3 years ago

With poachers adding GPS to their arsenal, there need to be new technologies to track THEM. However, the reality still exists that a website like this will only be used when the people doing the reporting know they are either safe from retribution, or can be completely anonymous, since poachers are often organized gangs or crazy neighbors.

Edo R.
Edo R3 years ago

Excellent initiative! Thanks for sharing!

Lucas Kolasa
Lucas Kolasa3 years ago