IATA: Wildlife trafficking getting severe and a growing problem

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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has started carrying out airport wildlife trafficking assessments – working with the World Customs Organization (WCO) – as it looks to combat the growing illegal trade.

Last month, IATA launched its Airport Wildlife Tracking Assessment tool with a pilot at Maputo International Airport in Mozambique before rolling it out to Hanoi in Vietnam. It will do a further five more in 2017, likely to be in Africa, South America and Asia.

Wildlife trafficking is the fourth biggest illegal trade behind drugs, counterfeit/pirated goods and human trafficking. It is worth around $19 billion annually.

IATA’s head of cargo border management, Gordon Wright says wildlife trafficking has got “so severe” in the last few months and it has become a growing problem in the last 18 months. He notes seizures account for only 10 per cent of the illegal trade.

Wright says the pangolin – a scaly anteater – is the most trafficked animal, while rhinos and elephants are also high on the list of the most trafficked animals by smugglers.

IATA has launched a video for aviation staff, highlighting the important role front-line workers can play to catch wildlife traffickers and in June it endorsed a resolution denouncing the illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products.

In March, it was among signatories to the Buckingham Palace Declaration supporting the United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce initiative of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. Among airlines signed up are Qatar Airways, Qantas, British Airways, Finnair, Etihad Airways, Emirates and others.