Qatar Airways first to achieve IATA wildlife trafficking standard as new ROUTES mapping tool released
(photo: Qatar Airways)
Mon 22 July 2019 – The USAID ROUTES Partnership and C4ADS have launched a publicly available mapping tool on wildlife trafficking in the air transport sector. The ROUTES Dashboard provides in-depth and customisable analysis of the trafficking trends, routes and methods associated with wildlife trafficking seizures at airports worldwide. The tool can be used by airlines and airports, enforcement personnel, government agencies and other stakeholders to help strengthen counter-wildlife trafficking policies in the sector. Meanwhile, ROUTES partner Qatar Airways has become the first airline to achieve a new industry standard for the prevention of illegal wildlife trafficking in aviation. The IATA certification confirms an airline has procedures, staff training and reporting protocols in place that make the smuggling of illegal wildlife products more challenging.
The illegal trade in wildlife is worth an estimated $23 billion per year and threatens the survival of some of the world’s most endangered species. Animals and animal products are transported around the globe for trade by traffickers taking advantage of commercial transport services, including aviation. The USAID Reducing Opportunities for Unlawful Transport of Endangered Species (ROUTES) brings together transport and logistics companies, government agencies, development groups, law enforcement, conservation organisations, academia and donors to disrupt wildlife trafficking activities.
The core group of partners includes the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS), Freeland, IATA, TRAFFIC and WWF. ROUTES has published two reports into wildlife trafficking in the air transport sector: ‘Flying Under the Radar’ (2017) and ‘In Plane Sight’ (2018).
The dedicated ROUTES Dashboard website provides graphics on wildlife trafficking through airports between 2009 and 2019 that have been derived from open source wildlife seizure data collected and compiled by C4ADS analysts on a monthly basis. It is sorted into seven wildlife categories: elephant ivory, rhino horn, reptiles, birds, pangolins, marine species and mammals. These seven categories are estimated to account for 81% of known trafficked wildlife and wildlife products.
The researchers admit that analysing trafficking activity using open source seizure data can be problematic as accuracy is dependent on the data source and can be affected by differences in reporting from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Furthermore, seizures only capture trafficking attempts that have been unsuccessful and so could be evidence of effective enforcement efforts rather than high volumes of trafficking activity. However, they say, with the appropriate caveats, the data provides the best available picture of wildlife trafficking through airports.
In addition, the Dashboard includes a Route Risk tool that allows users to input specific flight routes and receive an estimated risk assessment based on the number of previous trafficking attempts along that route. It also has a Country Profile Map that provides a summary of wildlife trafficking information for individual countries.
The new airline industry standard for the prevention of illegal wildlife trafficking in aviation, the Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) Assessment, was developed by IATA as part of its IEnvA environmental management and evaluation system for airlines. Compliance with the IWT IEnvA Standards and Recommended Practices (ESARPs) enables airline signatories to the United for Wildlife Buckingham Palace Declaration to demonstrate they have implemented the relevant commitments within the Declaration.
Qatar Airways was one of the inaugural signatories in March 2016 and became a founding member of the United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce. The airline says it has implemented multiple initiatives to help prevent illegal wildlife transportation activity through its network, such as training employees on how to detect and report suspicious activity and raising passenger awareness of the importance of the issue.
Commenting on the award of the new standard, Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker said: “We are proud and honoured to be the first airline recognised by our industry for delivering on the commitments we made at Buckingham Palace. We remain dedicated to this cause and will continue to work with our stakeholders to raise awareness and improve detection of illegal activity.”
Added Lord Hague, Chair of the United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce: “Congratulations to Qatar Airways on being the first to achieve this important new certificate, which represents the high standard to which airlines are now being held and is only awarded to those truly taking the necessary measures to combat the illegal wildlife trade.”
Presenting Al Baker with the certificate, IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac said: “The trade in illegal wildlife could rob future generations of some of our most precious and iconic species. Sadly, traffickers take advantage of the air transport networks we have built, and we all share a responsibility to play our part in eradicating this appalling trade.”