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.

Task Force representatives Dan Ashe, Head of Fish and Wildlife Service, John Cruden, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, and Catherine Novelli, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment each provided opening remarks.  Under Secretary Novelli stressed that support for combating wildlife trafficking will extend beyond the Obama Administration, as evidenced in the bipartisan support for the recently passed END Act, but much work remains. She explained, “we have to run faster than the bad guys…and the only way we’re going to do that is if we have better tools at our disposal.” Undersecretary Novelli emphasized, “we also have to give people an economic reason to protect these animals.”

In the round-table discussion that followed, members of the Advisory Council focused on the best ways to attack the root causes of wildlife trafficking. The Council members agreed that poverty, corruption and lack of rule of law, and weak local conservation institutions all contribute to this scourge. John Cruden, ENRD, concurred, and asked the Advisory Council to focus on three tasks: building capacity, decreasing corruption, and increasing communication, especially from the bottom-up.

During the portion of the meeting reserved for public commentary, NWC Executive Director Stephen Kohn discussed the potential behind “Unlocking the Power of the Wildlife Whistleblower Laws.” Kohn explained that whistleblower reward laws incentivize the reporting of crime, and have been highly effective in every area of law for which they have been implemented. Congress has enacted six reward laws to incentive the detection and reporting of wildlife trafficking but, for the past 30 years, the reward provisions have been underutilized.

Kohn asked the Advisory Council to encourage all agencies who are responsible for paying wildlife whistleblower rewards create whistleblower offices, websites, and procedures to accept information from these sources. The Advisory Council was very receptive. Council Member John Webb vocally supported Kohn’s proposal, calling wildlife whistleblower rewards “the best money” that the government could ever spend to end wildlife trafficking.

More information:

Written Remarks of Mr. Kohn:

Frequently Asked Questions: Whistleblower rewards for informants who report violations of wildlife trafficking laws:

*Post by NWC Staff Attorney Rebecca Guiterman.