If you have confidential information regarding wildlife crime, you may be entitled to a monetary reward from the U.S. government. Various laws in the U.S., such as the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Lacey Act, include reward conditions that direct certain government departments, like the Fish and Wildlife Service, to pay individuals who provide information that leads to successful enforcement action.
Whistleblowing laws have become an important method for exposing wrongdoing in the U.S. and abroad. In curbing wildlife crime, whistleblowers can play a key role in contributing to a successful prosecution. Many do not realize that if you report wildlife crime to the U.S. government, you may be entitled to monetary rewards when the information contributes to a successful prosecution. However, getting whistleblowers to come forward is difficult, especially since many are unfamiliar with the laws and necessary processes.
Today, over 40 major wildlife laws include whistleblower reward provisions (Kohn, S., 2016), but there are no publicly available procedures for whistleblowers to disclose information, apply for rewards, or obtain monetary compensation. Therefore, WildLeaks strongly recommends not going directly to the U.S. government. Instead, WildLeaks can act as an intermediary between the whistleblower and the federal agencies, ensuring that the whistleblower’s identity is concealed. If the whistleblower is given a monetary reward for disclosing information, WildLeaks can collect the reward on the whistleblower’s behalf.
Two U.S. laws – the Lacey Act and the Endangered Species Act (ESA) – primarily regulate wildlife crime and have whistleblower reward provisions. Both U.S. citizens and noncitizens are eligible to receive rewards, incluidng foreign government officials.
There are also the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits bribery of U.S.-related persons, as well as the False Claims Act, which prohibits lying on customs forms.
If someone provides a tip about a wildlife crime they see happening, they may be eligible for a monetary reward for disclosing that information to law enforcement, regardless of which country or countries the crime occurs in.
In some cases the seizure provision can significantly increase a whistleblower’s reward. The Lacey Act stipulates that any vessels used for transporting illegal wildlife are subject to seizure and a reward payable to a whistleblower could be based on any “seizures” obtained under the law. If applied, any information leading to the seizure of a vessel transporting illegal flora and fauna could greatly benefit the whistleblower in regards to their monetary reward. The whistleblower could not only file claims and obtain rewards on the civil and criminal penalties, but also on the value of the seized vessels (Kohn, S., 2016).