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New website WildLeaks invites whistleblowers in Asia-Pacific to report wildlife crime
ABC Radio Australia - February 27, 2014
WildLeaks, created by California-based NGO Elephant Action League, is a secure online platform similar to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.
Conservation and crime-fighting organisations have come together to back the initiative, which they hope will play a significant role in shining a light on wildlife traffickers and illegal timber operations. The illegal wildlife and timber trade is estimated to be worth around $18 billion a year globally.
WildLeaks project leader Andrea Crosta says the organisation is keen to hear from people in Asia and the Pacific who might have information that would help with prosecutions. She says Asia is of particular interest because it is both a source and a destination for criminal syndicates behind wildlife crime.
It is huge problem and it is even more serious because most countries do not see it as a real crime. "We thought there was a gap between people with important information and people who can actually do things with this information," Ms Crosta said.
"The priority remains to prevent wildlife crime where possible and to facilitate the identification, arrest and prosecution of people behind those crimes."
Authentication of information is a top priority for WildLeaks, which will then hand its findings on to law enforcement authorities or the media. Ms Crosta says many countries underestimate wildlife and forest crime.
"It is huge problem and it is even more serious because most countries do not see it as a real crime," she said. "They see wildlife and forest crimes as environmental issues while in fact, they are not. They are serious crimes, with serious criminal syndicates and groups behind it."
'You remain completely anonymous'
Global Eye, an anti-trafficking investigative organisation with operations in the United States, Europe and Africa, is opening an Asia-Pacific office in the northern Australian city of Cairns.
Fiachra Kearney, chief executive officer of Global Eye, believes WildLeaks will be a powerful tool. "It is the first global mechanism to allow people to submit information in an anonymous way and what we do in Global Eye is take that information and try and convert that into actionable intelligence," he said.
Anything from photographs and information about individuals through to company or government documents is of interest to WildLeaks. Ms Crosta says whistleblowers will remain "completely anonymous, shielded behind a very secure platform".
"When we built this platform, one of the first priorities was let's build something that really protects the source of our information," she said.
"So when you submit information through our secure parts we don't ask you name, we don't ask your number, email, where are you from. We don't know anything about it unless you want to tell us.
"A very interesting thing the platform does is when you are done with your submission, the system gives you a 10-digit number. And this is a very important number because with this number you can get back to your original submission, you can add more information and you can even open an anonymous chat with us – but always remaining anonymous."
Every year, around 100 national park rangers are killed defending forests and wildlife.
Sean Willmore is the president of the International Ranger Association and the director of the Thin Green Line, an award-winning documentary which exposed the dangers that park rangers face.
He says WildLeaks will help a wide range of people coping with corruption. "It is going to be a tremendous resource for civilians, for rangers, for anyone who wants to report a wildlife crime," Mr Willmore said.
"And then it is about building capacity supporting Wildleaks, and Interpol and other agencies in-country, to actually prosecute and use the information to stop the wildlife trafficking."