Corruption and misconduct are not exclusive to the workplace or financial institutions. When people think of whistleblowing perhaps Ponzi schemes and tax evasion may come to mind but illegal activity can be found in various industries and in various forms. One segment of society that is often not highlighted in the same way, as for instance health care fraud, is the environment, and in particular, wildlife crimes.
Why does it matter?
There are over 40,000 species listed as either endangered or near extinction. In fact, within the last 500 years, more than 800 species have been driven to extinction. There are many contributing factors to the extinction rate, though human activity remains a prime cause. Apart from the obvious ecological impact, other troubling activities have become more rampant over the years. Illegal wildlife trade, trafficking, and other related offenses have turned into a multi-billion-dollar business, which has been aided by underground rings, fraudulent practices, and foreign bribery.
Even if people believe that this type of wrongdoing does not affect them directly, it should be noted that organized crime across borders is never something to ignore and turning a blind eye only strengthens the capabilities and increases the spread of global syndicates.
What has the government done?
The U.S. Congress has taken a proactive approach to wildlife conservation since 1900 when the Lacey Act was enacted. The Act makes it illegal to acquire, sell or transport animals (including fish) or plants in contravention of U.S. or international laws. Additionally, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) was created to rescue and protect at-risk species and their natural habitats. For example, the bald eagle population was dwindling locally several years ago but thanks to protection laws, such as the ones provided by the ESA, the species has since recovered.
How are whistleblowers involved?
The U.S. Congress has always viewed whistleblowers as invaluable pieces of the puzzle. It is sometimes difficult for the government to expeditiously detect and deter criminal acts carried out across multiple nations and territories. Therefore the people on the ground, with more insight into what is happening in their own countries, are extremely instrumental in bringing the countless networks of poachers and traffickers to justice.
What about rights and rewards?
The use of whistleblowers in the fight against fraud and corruption is a formidable tool but one that has not been fully utilized when it comes to environmental issues and wildlife conservation. The National Whistleblower Center (NWC) has been a leading force for whistleblower laws for over three decades. It has sought to improve the situation by establishing a Global Wildlife Whistleblower Program geared toward edifying the public on how to securely submit information as well as whistleblower rights and rewards.
The Lacey Act granted monetary incentives to whistleblowers and the NWC is determined to advance and enforce those provisions by ensuring whistleblowers are connected to capable attorneys who will help to build a strong case, assist in the filing process, and make a claim for any qualifying awards.
There can be significant inducements for alerting authorities about those persons or criminal entities who participate in illegal trade, illegal fishing, animal trafficking, and other prohibited acts. Wildlife agencies are calling upon citizens in the U.S., and all over the world, to report wrongdoing as whistleblowing can actually help the environment. If you are aware of any such wrongdoing, contact Newman & Shapiro today!