Convicted wildlife traffickers in Oregon are rendering community service in the style of Sherlock Holmes.
They are helping a government investigator, Meredith Gore, to uncover more wildlife crimes that are especially rampant online.
The unique type of community service is still at an experimental stage, with support from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oregon and the Fish and Wildlife Service.
“Understanding what causes people to become involved in wildlife trafficking is crucial to preventing individuals and groups from becoming involved in the first place,” the Fish and Wildlife Service said in a statement. “Tailoring the community service portion of a defendant’s sentence, when applicable” is in accordance with the mission of the agency.
Andrew Lemieux, a coordinator of a wildlife crime research group at the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement, praised Gore’s work as groundbreaking.
According to Gore and other wildlife crime specialists, it is the first time restorative justice is being used to fight wildlife crime in this manner.
“I will be looking forward to seeing the results and what we can learn from it,” remarked Canadian wildlife crime expert Sheldon Jordan, who works as an analytical coordinator with Interpol.
The convicted wildlife traffickers who are undergoing this new type of community service are Yuan Xie, who had conspired to smuggle 769 turtles to China in violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES); Agnes Yu, who sold pangolin scales that were imported illegally into the US; and Darren Dennis Drake, who was engaged in the illegal importation and exportation of hundreds of live scorpions from Germany.
Their knowledge of the business renders new insights into the illegal wildlife trade. In Xie’s case, he had been discussing with Gore via Zoon about the listing of protected turtles for sale on Facebook. Gore gains more valuable information on how traffickers do their transactions online and their various smuggling methods.
Moreover, Gore and other authorities have realized through Yu and her husband the importance of communication with owners of traditional medicine shops regarding the legal requirements of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
“We want to better educate people, and we feel that we weren’t knowledgeable enough about this area, and that’s why we got into trouble,” said Ken Yu.
In his point of view, conducting mandated sessions to inform owners of import restrictions and changes in domestic or international wildlife trade regulations would help these businesses to be on the side of the law.
These new insights are valuable in solving and preventing wildlife crimes, and Gore believes that there are more lessons to be learned from talking with offenders. Further, this use of restorative justice could be applied by other states in their aim to more effectively fight wildlife trafficking.Whizzco