Whistleblower Website Targets Poaching in Africa: Page 2


"It does appear to be a new approach within the wildlife crime sector," said Richard Thomas from TRAFFIC, the world's leading wildlife trade monitoring network. "It could prove its worth over time, if useful information is received and directed towards appropriate professional enforcement agencies for follow-up action."

Representatives from the Conservation Group of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, which has partnered with WildLeaks to fight the sale of great apes in Central and West Africa, are also positive about the project.

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"I think that it's a really smart idea," said Mimi Arandjelovic, a member of the group. "There are also a lot of taboos that people might feel about reporting these sorts of things, so having an anonymous way of reporting it can only be positive."

But the problem with WildLeaks, Crosta admitted, is that in order for the project to be successful, the public needs to know about it and trust the people who are involved. Crosta was in Dar es Salaam to meet potential partners and spread the word about his project.

WildLeaks has yet to receive a leak from Tanzania, even though the east African nation struggles with wildlife crime. A third of all illegal ivory seized in Asia has come through Tanzanian ports.

Crosta, 45, has a background in both business and security consulting, often for governments and multinational companies. In 2011, he said he self-funded an 18-month investigation, going undercover to find sources and meet with traffickers. His probe led him to suggest ivory was providing key funding for Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents.

While UN experts disputed the findings, many would back WildLeaks' message: stopping poaching requires action against the wealthy and influential bosses of often extremely well-connected organized crime gangs.

"Unlike others operating in the field... we are not after small-time poachers or traffickers, but the people above them, including corrupt government officials," he said.

No arrests have yet been made, but Crosta attributes this to the newness of the project and the fact that it is aiming for the bigger players in poaching networks.

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The spike in poaching, with animals slaughtered even inside heavily guarded national parks or conservation areas, shows that poachers have little fear of tough new laws designed to end the killing.

"You can't just keep going out catching and jailing poachers because there's an endless supply out there," he said, motioning towards the villages of rural Tanzania. "That is not the solution.

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