GAO recommends use of rewards to combat wildlife trafficking

businessIn a report released today, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued wide-ranging recommendations to increase the effectiveness of paying informants and whistleblowers to report illegal wildlife trafficking.

The GAO report found that wildlife trafficking is among the top-ranked illicit trades, valued at approximately $23 billion a year, and that “the United States is one of the world’s largest trafficking markets.” According to the Report, trafficking has “pushed several endangered species to the brink of extinction” and has devastated “wild populations of elephants, rhinoceroses, tigers, pangolins, turtles, exotic birds, and many other species.”

“The GAO got it right,” said whistleblower law expert Stephen M. Kohn. “Paying rewards to those who come forward with information about illegal wildlife trafficking is the key to the enforcement of anti-trafficking laws,” Kohn continued.  Kohn, a partner in the whistleblower rights law firm of Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto, is an internationally-recognized expert in whistleblower law.  His article “Monetary Rewards for Wildlife Whistleblowers: A Game-Changer in Wildlife Trafficking Detection and Deterrence” (Environmental Law Reporter, January 2016), triggered the critical review of the efforts to utilize whistleblower rewards to stop the global extinction crisis.

Kohn urged Congress, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to take steps to incentivize whistleblowers to report illegal wildlife trafficking.  The GAO report substantiates Kohn’s concerns and recommendations for reforms.

The GAO recommended a top-down review of how to best utilize the payment of rewards to combat illegal trafficking, and how to effectively publicize the whistleblower reward program to the public.

“The GAO proposals could revolutionize the detection and enforcement of the wildlife trafficking laws. The GAO documented weaknesses in the current system and made important recommendations for reforms. Congress needs to act on this report and modernize wildlife trafficking whistleblower laws consistent with the highly effective Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, False Claims Act, and IRS whistleblower qui tam provisions,” said Kohn.

Read the report: GAO-18-279: Combating Wildlife Trafficking: Opportunities Exist to Improve the Use of Financial Rewards


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