Last week, the Senate passed the bipartisan Rescuing Animals With Rewards (“RAWR”) Act. The companion bill previously passed in the House this July. “Wildlife trafficking is a transnational crime that requires a coordinated and sustained global effort to effectively combat it,” said Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), who co-sponsored the RAWR Act. With this legislation, Congress has recognized both the severity of wildlife trafficking and the importance of whistleblower reward laws in combating such sophisticated international crime.

The RAWR Act would add wildlife trafficking to the State Department’s existing whistleblower program, authorizing financial rewards for information that leads to the interruption of wildlife trafficking networks. Information considered for potential whistleblower rewards includes that which leads to the identification, location, arrest, or conviction of significant members of transnational wildlife trafficking networks, as well as information leading to disruption of such a network’s financial support. Wildlife whistleblowers who witness crimes anywhere in the world could utilize this reward law.

Numerous other U.S. whistleblower programs demonstrate the success of similar reward laws, which bring in billions of dollars to the U.S. treasury, including the False Claims Act and anti-bribery provisions enforced by the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower. Most importantly, whistleblowers are incentivized to come forward with high-quality information that assists law enforcement agents in stopping criminals and criminal networks.

Wildlife crime is a multi-billion-dollar trade that represents the second-greatest danger to the survival of species worldwide, leading to an extinction crisis for iconic species, including elephants, rhinos, and tigers. It also threatens national security around the world, undermining the rule of law and creating avenues for corruption. However, detection of these underground networks is challenging without inside knowledge. Protecting and incentivizing whistleblowers to report illegal activity is crucial to stopping the global illicit trade in wildlife and its associated forms of international organized crime.

Numerous environmental and animal welfare groups, including the National Whistleblower Center and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, support the RAWR Act. The bill will now be transferred to the House for final approval before the President can sign it into law.

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