Everyone knows that wildlife law enforcement around the world is terribly underfunded and that hardly any wildlife traffickers ever go to jail. In The Lizard King, the very motivated Agent Chip Bepler couldn’t get federal prosecutors to take his endangered species cases when they had the NY mafia’s John Gotti to go after.
I have said it before, but one of my discoveries while researching The Lizard King was that historically the most important innovation in wildlife law enforcement was not more money or more cops, but a committed court. Perhaps the key step a country can take to reduce environmental crime is to separate environmental prosecutions from other forms of crime. When the US Department of Justice did this it revolutionized wildlife and environmental prosecutions in the US. Today’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division enables federal wildlife and environmental investigators to take their cases directly to a knowledgeable prosecutor, who can help push a case forward. In The Lizard King, AUSA Chris McAlilley created a mini-version of the ENRD in the Miami office of the Justice Department and that move ended up key to sending Mike Van Nostrand to prison.
And so it is with this background one should consider this news from Malaysia this week: “The Environmental Court set up by the judiciary on Sept 3 will start operations on Monday.” Malaysia is launching Green Courts! Here is the full story in The Star.
And lest anyone forget, this effort to create a green court rises in large part from the voice of Azrina Abdullah, who called for a green court in her editorial November 2010. The voice of committed individuals can make a difference around the world. It takes passion and brains, and Azrina Abdullah has both.