The END Act: A critical tool in the fight against transnational organized crime
When the Eliminate, Neutralize and Disrupt Wildlife Trafficking Act (END Act) was signed into law in October of 2016, wildlife conservation organizations won a major victory in the fight against wildlife trafficking. While this act is a critical tool to support global conservation efforts it also greatly strengthens efforts in the fight against global transnational organized crime. Despite the specific focus on illicit wildlife trafficking organizations and networks, the fact that the act calls on all relevant US Government agencies to identify linkages to other transnational organized crime activities can greatly assist in finding the points where the activities of wildlife trafficking organizations converge with the activities of other illicit organizations. These points of convergence are critical junctures to highlight so that information can be yielded on the activities of networks that move other illicit commodities such as drugs, weapons, people and even violent extremist organization networks.
Along with increased enforcement authorities, this act also grants broader authority to share relevant data and information on illicit wildlife trafficking activities between federal law enforcement agencies and the intelligence community. This is invaluable in order to close information gaps, eliminate redundancies and increase threat awareness for greater cooperation. Additionally, the directive to increase inter-agency focus on the financial operations of illicit wildlife trafficking organizations can be a great window into money movement and laundering activities of innumerable global illicit networks, allowing for disruption efforts against the most valuable enabling mechanism of an illicit organization, that of money.
Finally, the END Act greatly strengthens our capacity building authorities with our partner nations that are plagued by wildlife crime. In addition to enhancing information sharing with countries of concern, it allows for working with partner nation law enforcement agencies not only in a joint investigative role, but also in a comprehensive training capacity to increase the effectiveness of and further enable local agency operational efforts against illicit wildlife trafficking activities. By investing in these capacity building partnerships, we create an effective force multiplier in the strategic and tactical fight against transnational organized criminal networks.
Overall, this act, which in its current form is set to expire in October of 2021, is an essential tool in combating not just wildlife crime but all transnational organized crime while increasing US inter-agency strategic and operational efficiencies in the realm of information sharing, enforcement activities and partner nation capacity building. Let’s hope it gets re-signed next year.
*In another success in the enduring fight against illicit wildlife trafficking, the Rescuing Animals With Rewards (RAWR) Act was signed into law in December of 2019. This law allows the State Department to offer financial rewards for information that leads to the disruption of wildlife trafficking networks, strengthening existing enforcement mechanisms within the END Act.