Air transport industry signs Buckingham Palace Declaration in fight against illegal wildlife trafficking
Emirates A380 wearing special livery in support of United for Wildlife
Thu 17 Mar 2016 – Airlines and airports have joined other transport sectors in signing an international declaration in committing to take action to shut down the routes exploited by traffickers of the illegal wildlife trade moving their products. As members of the United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce, IATA and ACI leaders were invited along with 30 other signatories to Buckingham Palace to sign the declaration that takes steps to remove the vulnerabilities in transportation and customs through specific commitments to support the fight against the trade, which is valued between $5-20 billion a year. The air transport sector has pledged to raise awareness of the issue among passengers and train staff to recognise and report suspicious packages and behaviour. United for Wildlife is an initiative created by the Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.
“I can think of few other causes that galvanise more interest and support across the global transport and logistics sectors than the challenge of wildlife trafficking,” said IATA Director General Tony Tyler at the signing.
“Today marks a step forward for environmental protection – a commitment we take very seriously. In the 1990s the industry came together to address noise. More recently we joined forces to manage our impact on climate change. 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.”
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. 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. Two awareness-raising workshops for airline and airport staff have been held in Nairobi and Bangkok.
At IATA’s annual meeting last year, an agreement was signed with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to cooperate on reducing the illegal trade in wildlife, as well as ensuring the safe and secure transport of legally traded wildlife (see article). IATA has also joined the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Reducing Opportunities for Unlawful Transport of Endangered Species (ROUTES) Partnership.
The Buckingham Palace Declaration comes after 12 months of collaboration between the taskforce members, which in addition to IATA and Airports Council International (ACI) also includes the African Airlines Association, Air China Cargo, Emirates, Etihad Airways, International Airlines Group, Kenya Airways, Qantas, Qatar Airways and South African Airways. A number of wildlife and conservation organisations are also represented, including WWF-UK.
“This is an important moment for United for Wildlife and for the air and maritime transport industries,” said ACI World Director General Angela Gittens. “After a year of hard work and negotiations, industry leaders have today spoken with one voice to condemn illegal wildlife trafficking.
“For ACI’s part, we pledge to do our utmost to help in the fight to stop the trafficking – a practice which harms not only animals, many of them on the brink of extinction, but also communities through the associated violence and corruption that often goes hand in hand with this activity.”
Among the commitments is action to:
Secure information sharing systems for the transport industry to receive credible information about high risk routes and methods of transportation;
Develop a secure system for passing information about suspected illegal wildlife trade from the transport sector to relevant customs and law enforcement authorities; and
Notify relevant law enforcement authorities of cargoes suspected of containing illegal wildlife and their products and, where able, refuse to accept or ship such cargoes.
“By implementing these commitments, the signatories can secure a game changer in the race against extinction,” commented the Duke of Cambridge. “I thank them for their commitment and I invite any other company in the industry to sign up to the Buckingham Palace Declaration and play their part in the fight against the poaching crisis.”