Wildlife Whistleblowers

Today the National Whistleblower Center is excited to celebrate World Wildlife Day, a day that commemorates the signing of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) 45 years ago in Washington, D.C. CITES was an important step forward in promoting the protection of wildlife and biodiversity around the world. While this is a day to celebrate, we should also remember that wildlife is currently under threat like never before. We are currently in the midst of a global extinction crisis.

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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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Today marks the start of the third Our Ocean conference hosted by Secretary of State John F. Kerry.  The conference, which is being held in Washington, DC from September 15-16, 2016, will focus on marine protected areas, sustainable fisheries, and marine pollution, among other pressing concerns.

As Secretary Kerry acknowledged, “The richness and diversity of our marine resources are being decimated by reckless and illicit fishing practices.” Under Secretary of State Catherine Novelli stressed the importance of using technology to improve enforcement efforts at ports, noting that, “…[with robust enforcement] it becomes much more difficult to actually make a living selling illegally caught fish and that’s going to deter people from illegal fishing.”


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Washington, D.C. September 1, 2016. Today, the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge announced the National Whistleblower Center (NWC) as a Grand Prize Winner. The Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge, an initiative of USAID in partnership with the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution, and TRAFFIC, is finding new, innovative solutions to the most intractable issues in the fight against wildlife trafficking.
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Washington, D.C. August 29, 2016. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently approved the National Whistleblower Center’s application for membership. The IUCN is the world’s largest and most diverse environmental network.

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Washington, DC – July 21, 2016 — The  (ELI) and the National Whistleblower Center (NWC) have announced an upcoming seminar series on Global Wildlife Whistleblowers, scheduled for early 2017.  The first seminar in the series will explore enabling whistleblowers around the world to improve the enforcement of over 44 wildlife laws. The second seminar will address technical skills for lawyers seeking to represent wildlife whistleblowers. The seminars are currently scheduled for February 2nd, 2017 and February 16th, 2017.
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Last week, the National Whistleblower Center’s Executive Director Stephen Kohn visited the World Bank to discuss the NWC’s Global Wildlife Whistleblower Program with members of the Bank’s environmental protection program. Mr. Kohn’s presentation covered the background and specifics of the Program, which aims to educate potential wildlife whistleblowers around the world about their rights to protection and rewards under U.S. law, thereby encouraging those whistleblowers to come forward safely and effectively.  
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Today, the Departments of Justice, State, and the Interior, co-hosted a panel discussion with the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking to celebrate “World Wildlife Day.”

John C. Cruden, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, underscored the urgency of combating wildlife trafficking by reminding the audience, “If we don’t do better, we’re going to be telling our grandchildren what elephants and rhinoceroses used to look like.” It is this stark reality that reflects the magnitude of the international crisis in wildlife trafficking.
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