Earth League International: Targeting Poacheras and Wildlife Traffickers
Earth League International (ELI) is an organization dedicated to combating wildlife trafficking and stopping the global trade in endangered species. With an annual budget of just $350,000, ELI has managed to make a significant impact on the fight against poaching and smuggling networks. By focusing on penetrating transnational criminal networks involved in wildlife trafficking, ELI aims to disrupt the estimated $100 billion per year industry.
One of ELI’s undercover operatives, codenamed Billy, recently infiltrated a meeting between two of Mexico’s top wildlife traffickers in a Korean barbecue joint near Los Angeles. The traffickers were engaged in the smuggling of the buoyancy bladders of an endangered fish called the totoaba, which has pushed the vaquita porpoise to the brink of extinction. The bladders are highly valued in China, fetching prices as high as $50,000 per kilogram. ELI intends to gather evidence to bring down not only the poachers but also the smuggling networks that enable them.
ELI’s founder, Andrea Crosta, and his director of intelligence, Mark Davis, closely monitored the operation. Billy, posing as a Hong Kong businessman, recorded the traffickers’ conversation on his iPhone. ELI’s work has already led to the arrest of wildlife traffickers and has sparked multiple ongoing investigations by law enforcement agencies. Their partnership with agencies like the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Homeland Security, and the FBI has proven invaluable in their efforts.
ELI understands that to effectively combat wildlife trafficking, they must focus on the convergence of crimes associated with it. Rather than solely targeting poachers, they aim to charge traffickers with crimes such as human smuggling and money laundering, which carry longer sentences. By doing so, they can dismantle criminal networks involved in various illicit activities.
One of the challenges faced by ELI is the perception that wildlife crime is not as serious as other forms of criminal activity. Governments often underestimate the magnitude of wildlife trafficking, failing to recognize the connection between ecological destruction and criminal acts like conspiracy, bribery, and corruption. While the world spends billions to combat drug trafficking, the resources allocated to stop wildlife trafficking are significantly lower.
ELI operates on a shoestring budget but relies on the dedication of its team, including experienced undercover operatives like Billy and former FBI agent Mark Davis. Despite the challenges they face, ELI’s work has made a significant impact in disrupting wildlife trafficking networks. The organization believes that by targeting the criminals responsible for these activities, they can protect endangered species and preserve the delicate balance of ecosystems worldwide.
By: Alberte Mathias