Wildlife trafficking is worth US$20 billion

Smugglers use many transport modes to move these goods. This presentation highlighted how the aviation industry is fighting to block the movement by air.


Linden Coppell, Environmental Manager, Etihad Airways told the afternoon session on the first day at the symposiums about Wildlife Trafficking: What can we do to stop it? Illegal wildlife trafficking is a US$20 billion industry and is threatening some of the planets most endangered species.


Smugglers use many transport modes to move these goods. This presentation highlighted how the aviation industry is fighting to block the movement by air.


Etihad Airways was one of the first airlines to sign the Buckingham Palace Declaration (BPD), in March 2016. The declaration is a demonstration of support for the prevention of trade in illegal wildlife, either smuggled by concealment or carried using forged or inaccurate paperwork. The United Arab Emirates is also signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and the airline needs to help ensure that wildlife controlled under CITES is not carried unless the necessary paperwork is in order. CITES includes many wild animals and plants for which permission to transport is required by both the country of origin and the destination.


Responsibility of aviation industry

Etihad joined this initiative because they were devastated to learn of the scale of illegal wildlife trade and recognised the role that airlines can play in preventing this practice. The illegal wildlife industry is estimated to be worth up to US$20 billion, much of which is used to fund organised criminal networks. The direct impact on wildlife is significant, with many heavily trafficked animals becoming seriously threatened with extinction as a result. As a key mode of transport for smuggling this wildlife across borders, it is the responsibility of the aviation industry to take action to prevent this, and we are very willing to do so.


There are many areas of influence, most notably in raising awareness, both within the airlines and with the enforcement authorities. Etihad had run several workshops with the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, NGOs, police, customs, airports and other UAE airlines to better understand the CITES implementation, identify forged paperwork, and understand the techniques employed by traffickers. We are also raising awareness among our passengers, working with members of the UAE-based group, United for Wildlife (UFW), and supporting the development of intelligence-sharing techniques.


The UAE is a popular route from Africa, where much illegal wildlife trade originates, through to Asia, where much of the demand is located. Action by Etihad and other airlines is sending a direct message to smugglers that we are serious about preventing this, and we are working with the enforcement agencies.


IATA’s wildlife taskforce

Twenty-seven airlines have signed the declaration. Partner airlines have been encouraged to join, and Jet Airways, Air Serbia, Air Seychelles, Alitalia and Air berlin have all signed the declaration last year. Through IATA, there are efforts to encourage airlines to take action, even if they don’t sign the declaration. IATA has a wildlife taskforce, working with its member airlines to identify appropriate prevention techniques and share ideas.


Etihad have developed a new animal welfare and conservation policy, and some of the cargo customers are surprised at how strict this is when it comes to transporting wildlife. But this is not received in a negative way, and we believe that this is a positive move, which sends the right messages to our customers about how seriously we view this issue.


Etihad have placed a ban on hunting trophies, which sends a strong message that we do not support hunting of wildlife. We recognise that some hunting may be properly controlled, but while there is significant evidence of canned hunting and other uncontrolled and inappropriate hunting behaviour, Etihad will continue to implement this ban.