Andrea Crosta: “Wildleaks makes it possible for citizens to contribute to the fight against wildlife crime”

October 5, 2014

Andrea Crosta is the founder of Elephant Action League, a non profit organisation that fights wildlife crime. He just started a new initiative: Wildleaks. It enables everybody who has information on wildlife crime te share it and thus contribute to the protection of wildlife in a save way. 

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What is Wildleaks exactly?

“Wildleaks is an online platform where people can leak information about wildlife crime in a secure and anonymous matter. The project is actually a curious hybrid between the two worlds I’m working in. I have a background in intelligence and security and I’m the founder of wildlife-protection organisation Elephant action League. With Wildleaks both these worlds come together.”


Why did you start this initiative?

“Protecting wildlife is becoming more and more dangerous. Wildlife crime is highly organised, so you have to be creative in fighting this. People who have information on illegal wildlife traders can’t just share that without risk. Wildleaks makes it possible to share information safely, by encrypting messages and using techniques like TOR that make it impossible te track the sender of a message.”


How did people react to the launch of Wildleaks?

“The general public was very excited, we really felt like we were filling a gap. International law-enforcers were positive and they felt like we can contribute to their work. But in some of our target countries, most of them are in Eastern Africa and South-East Asia, authorities and government officials “freaked out”. They are in their comfort zone right now, pretending to care about wildlife protection, but not really doing anything. There’s a lot of corruption going on and some officials are profiting on that. Exactly this practice is what we are fighting against with Wildleaks. Corruption is our biggest enemy.”


What do you do with the information you receive?

“When we get a leak we check it all very carefully. We travel to the location, talk to locals, NGO’s, etcetera. We might start our own investigation, or decide to share the information with media or other wildlife protection organisations. Ultimately, when an investigation is finished, we might share it with local or international legal institutions.”


“Wildleaks was launched eight months ago and we’ve already set up three major investigations into illegal ivory trade. Most leaks come from African countries, but we also got information from Indonesia, Siberia, Mexico, and so on. It might involve ivory trade, but we’ve also had leaks about chimp- and parrot trade for example.”


Wikileaks, Publeaks, Wildleaks, you seem to fit into a trend?

“Yes we do. Developments like the growing penetration of internet and the availability of tools like TOR to communicate safely online, cause a sudden growth in organisations and platforms like ours. Although we are very different from Wikileaks in the sense that we don’t reveal any secret government information. We don’t share anything automatically. It’s not secrets that we’re after, but crime and corruption.”


“What inspires me is that today there are tools available that can empower people to make their own contributions. If you have information, now it’s possible to share it in a valuable way. And if we put in the effort, it can work, and people can see the result of what they’ve contributed to.”


So now you sit back, relax, and wait for all the good information to come in?

“No, we can’t be passive. We have to inspire and encourage people to use our platform. To show why it is important. That is why we also collaborate with as many local and international organisations as possible. We can only make a difference if we work together.”


Working together in open and new ways, seems to be the paradigm of our time. What does it mean to you?

“We certainly live at an interesting time with new technologies, new ways of working and new means of education coming up. This implies that societies need to become more open and more transparent, but also that we have to protect ourselves when needed. But I think it is all pointing us in a direction where more and more citizens can contribute to society in many different ways.”


Author: Ellen de Lange, OneWorld