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These contraband wildlife trade items were seized by the UK's Border Force. Photo: UK Home Office via Flickr.com.
These contraband wildlife trade items were seized by the UK's Border Force. Photo: UK Home Office via Flickr.com.
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WildLeaks launched - the WikiLeaks for wildlife

The Ecologist

7th February 2014

A group of organisations fighting wildlife crime have come together to launch WildLeaks - the first global, secure online whistleblower platform dedicated to wildlife and forest crime.

We hope that offering a secure platform for information that will be followed up will encourage those with inside information to let us know about it.

WildLeaks, in collaboration with the Hermes Center for Transparency and Digital Human Rights, has implemented a secure platform in order to allow sources to submit sensitive information anonymously and securely.

"Wildlife crimes very often go undetected and unchallenged when people do not speak up about them", said Andrea Crosta, Project Leader of WildLeaks and Co-Founder of Elephant Action League.

"Whistleblowers can play a crucial role in fighting back, creating awareness and supporting justice."

Identifying criminals - while protecting sources

"Our first priority is to facilitate the identification of criminals and corrupt governmental officials behind the poaching and trafficking of endangered species such as ivory, rhino horn, big cats, apes, pangolins and birds, as well as forest products", said Crosta.

"But we also put a lot of effort into protecting the people who chose to send us information, not only by providing a state-of-the-art secure system but also by managing and using the information in the correct way."

Fiona Macleod, editor of the Oxpeckers Center for Investigative Environmental Journalists, added: "Organized crime syndicates looting Africa's natural resources are extremely difficult to penetrate, and there are dangers for whistleblowers who expose them.

"We hope that offering a secure platform for information that will be followed up will encourage those with inside information to let us know about it."

Sophisticated intelligence

One the information is received by WildLeaks it is evaluated by experienced professionals, investigative reporters and ex-law enforcement officers.

In order to assess the information and decide on further actions, WildLeaks uses sophisticated intelligence methodology, a vast network of contacts and the latest technologies, Crosta explained.

Files are encrypted at every stage. An 'anonymity' submission option enables a system based on the 'Tor' technology, which is integrated in the platform and allows the Internet to be navigated anonymously untraceably.

A non-profit collaborative project

WildLeaks is a not-for-profit collaborative project funded by the California based Elephant Action League (EAL) and managed by a small group of experienced individuals, including directors of environmental NGOs, environmental lawyers, accredited journalists, security professionals and ex-law enforcement officers.

The group includes the heads of organizations like Elephant Action League (EAL), Oxpeckers Center in South Africa, EcoJust in the Netherlands and Global Eye that operates in Africa and South East Asia, and the award-winning author and journalist Bryan Christy.

WildLeaks also enjoys the collaboration of the Environmental Investigation Agency in London (EIA UK) and of 100Reporters, a US-based award-winning investigative journalists network working with whistleblowers and citizen watchdogs to expose corruption and heighten public accountability. 

Wildlife crime - a $17 billion a year business

Wildlife crime is the 4th largest transnational crime in the world, worth at least US$ 17 billion annually, after narcotics, counterfeiting, and human trafficking.

It now the most immediate threat to many species including elephants, rhinos, big cats and apes. Forest crime, which is the illicit trade in illegally logged timber, degrades forests and destroys wildlife habitats. These crimes also cause a significant human and economic toll.

Blowing the whistle on wildlife crimes, especially when criminals and corrupt government officials are involved, is a risky endeavor. But with WildLeaks a big part of that risk has been taken away.

 

 

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