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.
The Northern White Rhino is the latest, and among the prominent subspecies, on the verge of extinction. Earlier this week the final Northern White Rhino in the world, Sudan, became gravely ill. Unless he remarkably recovers and then breeds with one of the two remaining white rhinos, the species will soon go extinct.
In the ocean, things are little better. This week it was announced that Atlantic right whales, which saw zero births this year, will likely be extinct by 2024. At least 14 subspecies have become extinct in the 21st century.
Illegal poaching and illegal fishing have played a large role in this problem. Up to 32% of non-domestically grown seafood is illegal. Meanwhile, poaching rates have risen astronomically. Rhino poaching soared 9300% in South Africa between 2007 and 2014, as the numbers of illegally killed spiked from 13 to 1215 in just seven years. The news for elephant is just as grim: more than 100,000 elephants were killed in just three years in Central African nations, accounting for 64% of its elephants.
Wildlife whistleblowing can be a tool to curb these decimating trends. The Lacey Act grants the U.S. Departments of Treasury, Agriculture, Commerce, and Interior authority to give out whistleblower rewards to those who provide critical information about illegal trafficking. These agencies must develop a true wildlife whistleblower program that they publicize all around the world.
There are park rangers, customs officials, and wildlife traffickers that know about illegal poaching but have not had the incentive to come forward because the risks are high and the gains are low. Whistleblower rewards can change such calculations very quickly.
The National Whistleblower Center calls on the U.S. Departments of Treasury, Agriculture, Commerce, and Interior to implement effective wildlife whistleblower programs on this World Wildlife Day. These agencies have the power to ensure many species are spared the fate of the Northern White Rhino.