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.

What is CITES?

CITES is the only treaty to ensure that international trade in plants and animals does not threaten their survival in the wild. As wildlife trade is a global industry and involves crossing country borders, CITES was created in recognition of the international cooperation required for any type of regulation. 

Although not legally enforceable, CITES provides a framework that 183 member countries must respect, and each are expected to adopt their own domestic legislation to ensure that CITES is implemented at the national level. The U.S. implements CITES nationally primarily through the Endangered Species Act, which is currently under Congressional attack in favor of increased drilling, logging, and other activities, despite the lethal implications for hundreds of plant and animal species, local ecosystems, and the complex interconnections that sustain the natural world. Take action here.

The Biggest Threats to Wildlife Today

Poaching and loss of habitat are currently the biggest threats to wildlife. The wildlife trade is a multi-million dollar industry and trafficking includes live animals and plants, as well as many products derived from them, including food products, leather goods, wooden musical instruments, timber, tourist curios, and medicines. With the illegal wildlife trade only becoming more lucrative, and the fact that it’s run by organized criminal networks, it’s more critical now than ever that those who witness or gain information about this incredibly elusive network are empowered, protected, and compensated for the courage to come forward to expose the criminals involved.

The transnational nature of wildlife trafficking, means there are many people involved in the cycle; from the often poor locals on the ground committing the killing of animals, to those transporting the cargo across borders, to those selling the products and those at the top of the chain orchestrating the business. This entire process requires the cooperation of numerous individuals involved directly or indirectly at every stage. These insiders are the key to infiltrating the criminal networks running an almost undetectable system. Without a financial incentive and protection from retaliation, potential whistleblowers will rarely take the risk of reporting wildlife crime to authorities.

Extensive research shows that whistleblower reward laws have game-changing impact when applied to cases of fraud. A staggering 69% of detected U.S. fraud cases are attributed to whistleblowers reporting violations. If the government effectively implements the existing, but dormant, whistleblower reward laws for wildlife crimes, we would undoubtedly see an unprecedented spike in wildlife crime detection and prosecution.

Find out how the NWC’s Global Wildlife Whistleblower Program is reviving these powerful incentives for U.S. and non-U.S. whistleblowers.