Environmental Whistleblowers

Last year, Steve Kohn informed the world about dormant whistleblower provisions in wildlife protection laws that, if activated, would effectively combat wildlife trafficking. While several branches of the U.S. government have committed to addressing trafficking activities that have pushed many iconic species such as tigers and elephants to the brink of extinction, federal agencies have yet to use all the tools available to them in this fight.

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Today is UN World Wildlife Day, which marks the day that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), was signed in 1973. Celebrated globally, World Wildlife Day raises awareness of the importance of our world’s wild animals and plants, and is more crucial now than ever before.


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REGISTRATION NOW OPEN! National Whistleblower Center (NWC) and the Environmental Law Insitutte (ELI) are hosting a seminar series on wildlife whistleblowing this February 2017. The first seminar in the series, “Harnessing the Power of Whistleblowers: Combating Wildlife Crime” will explore enabling whistleblowers around the world to improve the enforcement of over 44

Washington, D.C. January 26, 2017. The National Whistleblower Center (NWC) announced today that it received a significant grant from The Wildcat Foundation. This grant will provide primary funding for the NWC’s Global Wildlife Whistleblower Program.  The NWC’s emerging Global Wildlife Whistleblower Program counters wildlife crime and promotes conservation by harnessing the power of whistleblower reward laws.

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This morning, National Whistleblower Center (NWC) Executive Director Stephen Kohn addressed the Federal Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking, a group of private sector experts charged with advising the Presidential Task Force on a multi-pronged approach to combat wildlife trafficking. The Task Force, co-chaired by the Secretary of State, Secretary of the Interior, and the Attorney General (or designees thereof), was created through Executive Order 13648 and recently codified in the Eliminate, Neutralize and Disrupt [END] Wildlife Trafficking Act of 2016. Kohn presented on harnessing the power of wildlife whistleblower reward laws to reverse the extinction crisis.
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The illegal rhino horn trade is one of the most potent and corrupt in the illegal wildlife trafficking arena, resulting in the death of at least 6,000 rhinos in the last decade alone, leaving only 25,000 rhinos remaining. Rhino horn is also one of the most profitable products on the illegal wildlife black market, considered more valuable than gold and platinum.

On November 12th, Al Jazeera held a special screening of the most recent edition of its documentary series: “The Poacher’s Pipeline.” In the film, Al Jazeera investigators follow the illegal supply chain of rhino horns from the fresh kill in Africa to their sale in Asia, specifically in Vietnam and China. The investigation revealed that the rhino horn trade is largely made possible because of its consumer base, which is comprised of high-level government officials and politicians from Africa and Asia.
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On Thursday, November 17, 2016, Stephen M. Kohn will present a free webinar on the key role whistleblowers can play in preventing illegal wildlife trafficking. This webinar will explore how whistleblowers around the world can report wildlife crime and receive monetary awards under two legal instruments, the Lacey and Endangered Species Acts, that support the provision of monetary incentives to persons who disclose information about wildlife crimes. The success of these laws has been profound, strengthening the ability of the government to detect and prosecute crime. In total, whistleblower rewards laws have resulted in over $50 billion in fines and penalties and over $3.5 billion in compensation to whistleblowers.

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Pembient, a U.S. Company, is using 3D technology to engineer ‘cultured’ rhino horn containing a mixture of real rhino DNA signature and keratin. Pembient believes it can reduce the economic incentive for poachers by flooding the market with the synthetic horn at very low cost, therefore driving down the demand for the real thing.  However, the product has been controversial, especially among wildlife conservation advocates, who argue the sale of cultured rhino horn could exacerbate the problem, rather than alleviate it.
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The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) began this past week in Johannesburg, South Africa. Yury Fedotov, executive director of the UN Office on Drug and Crime, and John Scanlon, secretary-general of CITES, have both recognized the growing issue of wildlife trafficking. Fedotov and Scanlon have partnered to encourage a discussion on the necessity to increase anti-corruption efforts for wildlife trafficking at CITES CoP17.
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On September 21, 2016, The House of Representatives voted by unanimous consent to pass H.R. 2494, the Eliminate, Neutralize and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Act. The bipartisan legislation, designed to combat the growing wildlife trafficking crisis, passed the Senate unanimously last week, on September 15.  The legislation is now before the President for signature.

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