Robert Schuyler Anderson 1954–2016

by Bill Clark

It came as a terrible shock. A tremor ran through me and my insides felt empty and sad when I was told that Bob Anderson had died. Wildlife has lost one of its most competent and devoted defenders. Human society has lost one of its most decent and considerate persons. I have lost a friend whom I admired enormously.

Bob was a US federal prosecutor. He had specialized in wildlife cases for more than a quarter century, and he was exceptionally good at it. Over the years, he had brought hundreds of criminals to court—wildlife smugglers, trophy dealers, bird pushers, snake salesmen. He invariably won his cases and achieved a conviction. He won because he was the very best at what he did. He was the best because he cared, and he labored meticulously over his case preparations.

In the end, his heart gave out. I like to think this was because he gave so much of his heart in everything he did. Bob knew his heart was ailing. He had undergone open-heart surgery 11 times over the years—each time the surgeons trying to apply some new technology or procedure. He always emerged from the ordeal with a smile and an estimate about when he would be able to get back to work.

Knowing his heart was so vulnerable, Bob once explained to me that he had no alternative other than to live each day as if it were his last. And if this was his last day, he wanted it to be his best.

Bob Anderson was the prosecutor who put the infamous Keng Liang “Anson” Wong into federal prison for six years. Wong was a Malaysian reptile dealer who specialized in trafficking the rare and the dangerous. Some of his clients were Americans, and Wong violated the US Endangered Species Act over and over again so that he could profit handsomely by selling them Komodo dragons and other rare exotics. But Wong was tracked, and he was caught, and despite Wong paying for some of the most expensive defense attorneys available, Bob Anderson was successful in achieving conviction on 40 felony violations of US law.

There were many other prosecutions—ones involving fancy cowboy boots made of sea turtle leather, bear gall bladder traffickers, trophy smugglers. When the indictment read “US vs. ...” the concept of “US” was not abstract to Bob Anderson. Rather, he appreciated that he was representing the interests of every US citizen.

Bob took no pleasure in achieving convictions and putting people into prison. But he frequently recalled that assured, competent prosecution is an important deterrent, and the certainty of such prosecution deters at least some potential criminals from exploiting wildlife illegally. “Law, without enforcement, is merely advice,” was one of his mottoes.

Bob was also keen on helping developing countries improve their wildlife prosecutions, always seeking higher standards of professionalism and integrity. For his outstanding efforts at home and abroad, AWI awarded Bob its Clark R. Bavin Wildlife Law Enforcement Award in 2010.

Bob Anderson established an almost impossibly high standard of professionalism throughout his career. His is a reputation that the younger generation of federal prosecutors should seek to equal.