Wildlife poaching is a major issue, not only in Africa, but also in the rest of the world where demand for exotic animal parts are rampant.
Wildleaks, a WikiLeaks-type website, is aiming to reduce animal trafficking and the trading in animal parts by becoming “the first, secure, online whistleblower platform dedicated to Wildlife and Forest Crime.”
Working in close collaboration with the Elephant Action League (EAL), it employs directors of environmental investigation NGOs, environmental lawyers, accredited journalists, security professionals and ex-law enforcement officers to disseminate the information and take the necessary steps.
“Our first priority is to facilitate the identification, arrest and prosecution of criminals, traffickers, businessmen and corrupt governmental officials behind the poaching of endangered species and the trafficking of wildlife and forest products such as ivory, rhino horn, big cats, apes, pangolins, birds and illegal timber,” the site explains.
By making use of Tor technology, the site ensures that anybody who provides them with tips-offs about poaching or animal part trafficking will remain anonymous. There are currently two options available for tip-offs: confidential and anonymous.
“WildLeaks has implemented a secure platform in order to allow the sources to stay anonymous and to submit sensitive information in a very secure way, always encrypted, in respect to data transmission and management.”
Anonymous tip-offs are the most secure, as you would have to install the Tor browser.
“Tor is a software built-in order to provide people with the possibility to navigate the Internet anonymously. It is made up of a chain of proxies that work to hide the users’ original IP address (your Internet identity). It is considered the best technology for digital anonymity available to Internet users and academics and IT security experts constantly revise it,” they explain.
Co-founder Andrea Crosta said that since the launch of WildLeaks, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“We had our first tip within 24 hours and the response has been beyond our wildest imagination. You can’t, for example, export containers full of ivory from Mombasa without bribing people left, right and centre. We definitely feel we are filling a gap,” he said in an interview with The Guardian.
While the project is only in three-month trial basis, he added that it has already yielded a number of excellent tip-offs, such as:
- elephant poaching in Africa and illicit ivory trading in Hong Kong;
- killing of Sumatran tigers, of which there are just 400 left in the wild;
- illegal lion and leopard hunting in South Africa;
- chimpanzee trafficking in Liberia;
- illegal fishing activities in Alaska, including alleged mafia involvement;
- importing of illegal African wildlife products into the US;
- illegal logging in Mexico, Malawi and Siberia.
Crosta said that because of whistleblowers, they are currently investigating three different ivory smuggling operations, which can be linked to the 2012 killing of 22,000 elephants for their ivory. Crosta was also involved in the uncovering of al-Shabaab terrorists who used ivory smuggling as part of their operation.
[Image – CC by 2.0/Arno Meinjies]