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Travel industry takes a stand against illegal wildlife trafficking

LONDON, March 16, 2016

The signing of a new declaration at Buckingham Palace committing the leaders of the global transportation industry to major steps to fight criminal wildlife trafficking has been hailed by The Duke of Cambridge as 'a game changer in the race against extinction.'

Around 40 CEOs, chairmen, and other leaders of airlines, shipping firms, port operators, customs agencies, intergovernmental organisations and conservation charities from around the world became the founding signatories of the Declaration of the United for Wildlife International Taskforce on the Transportation of Illegal Wildlife Products.

On behalf of the aviation industry, the International Air Transport Association (Iata) and UAE's Etihad Airways have signed the declaration which focuses on breaking the link between the demand for illegal wildlife products around the world and the escalating poaching crisis in places such as Africa.

Airlines are seen as key partners, able to increase passenger awareness, provide capacity building at airports and work closely to support the efforts of customs and law enforcement authorities.

The interconnected air transport network is being exploited by criminal gangs to smuggle animals or their products from the killing field to the market place. The air transport industry can help stop this trade by providing additional intelligence to enforcement authorities about suspicious shipments.

The ‘United for Wildlife’ initiative, created by the Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, invited representatives of the transport industry to Buckingham Palace to pledge their support. Iata, Airports Council International, the African Airlines Association and a number of individual airlines signed commitments aimed at raising awareness of the trafficking issue among passengers, and training staff to recognise and report suspicious packages and behaviour. The initial focus of action will be on the trafficking of high-risk protected animals, specifically certain big cats, pangolins, and ivory products, on high-risk routes, particularly originating from or transiting through East Africa.

James Hogan, Etihad Airways president and chief executive officer, said: “We recognise the significant role that the airlines can play in preventing the smuggling of wildlife and products. Whilst the airlines cannot act as regulators, we are able to support enforcement authorities and assist in raising passenger awareness. We encourage others in this sector to sign up to this declaration to help prevent this abhorrent practice."

“Today marks a step forward for environmental protection—a commitment that we take very seriously. In the 1990’s the industry came together to address noise. More recently we joined forces to manage our impact on climate change—committing as an industry to carbon-neutral growth from 2020 and to cut net emissions to half the 2005 levels by 2050. We now extend that commitment to playing an active role in reducing illegal trafficking of wildlife. We will collaborate in support of government enforcement authorities to put an end to this evil trade,” said Tony Tyler, Iata’s director general and CEO.

The commitments in the Buckingham Palace Declaration include:

  • Developing information sharing systems for the transport industry to receive credible information about high risk routes and methods of transportation;
  • Supporting a secure system for passing information about suspected illegal wildlife trade from the transport sector to relevant customs and law enforcement authorities;
  • Notifying relevant law enforcement authorities of cargoes suspected of containing illegal wildlife and their products and, where able, refuse to accept or ship such cargoes.

To address the commitments the airline will be working closely with Iata, the global airline association, on shared initiatives

Cooperation with enforcement authorities and international conservation organisations such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has already begun. Two awareness-raising workshops for airline and airport staff have been held at international airports in Nairobi and Bangkok. In addition, Iata joined the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Reducing Opportunities for Unlawful Transport of Endangered Species (ROUTES) Partnership. New guidance material for airlines has been published, and an Iata Environment Committee Wildlife Taskforce has been set up to monitor progress and provide advice on the next steps. - TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Iata | Illegal | Wildlife |

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