Airlines have come up with a new weapon in the battle against trafficking in rare and endangered wildlife.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has launched an airport wildlife trafficking assessment tool which it says will help defeat wildlife smugglers.
The assessment tool, developed in partnership with the World Customs Organisation (WCO) with support from the USAID ROUTES Partnership, was piloted with WCO at Maputo International Airport last month. A global rollout is planned for 2017.
IATA, with the support of USAID, has produced a video to help raise awareness of the issue among frontline airline staff:
The tool helps airports assess their supply-chain security, intelligence and risk management, staff awareness, and reporting processes, alongside air cargo and passenger screening policy and procedures.
“The illegal trafficking of wildlife products, including many iconic and endangered species, is an issue which the aviation industry takes very seriously,” said IATA director general and chief executive, Alexandre de Juniac.
“It will take a team effort to combat this deplorable trade. We are working in close partnership with USAID ROUTES, WCO, CITES and other organisations to make the world a much more difficult place for wildlife traffickers. Our common goal is to preserve our precious wildlife inheritance for future generations to enjoy.”
WCO secretary general, Kunio Mikuriya, said that actors in the air transport sector could serve as ‘the eyes and ears of enforcement agencies’ and become valuable partners in efforts to eliminate wildlife trafficking from supply chains.
“The assessment tool will enable them to identify weak points in procedures and practices, often exploited by traffickers, as well as ways of strengthening them,” Mikuriya said.
The launch of the assessment tool was announced as governments meet at the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference in Hanoi, to discuss ways to eradicate trafficking.
Earlier this year, IATA, along with 26 of its member airlines signed the Duke of Cambridge’s United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce Buckingham Palace Declaration. Signatories have committed to raise awareness of wildlife trafficking, train staff to help spot traffickers, and improve cooperation between transport bodies and regulatory and enforcement organizations.
IATA sees new technology such as e-documentation, online check-in and automated baggage drops playing a role.
“These technologies can help government authorities to build accurate risk assessments of travellers and cargo shipments,” de Juniac said.
“Whether it is combatting terrorism, stopping the illegal drug trade or putting an end to wildlife trafficking, governments must share information among themselves and with industry. We share a common goal and we must work together to achieve it.”
Edited by Peter Needham