There’s a new report on how illegal wildlife is being trafficked by air, and how smugglers are exploiting commercial air transport to move critically endangered animal parts or live animals, usually from Africa to Asia, and the report slammed one country in Asia with evidence showing them to be-- by far-- the most common destination for all seized wildlife products between 2009 and 2017.
It’s a report called “In Plane Sight Wildlife Trafficking in the Air Transport Sector”. And that’s “plane” as in “airplane”. It is the result of a collaboration between several organizations, including wildlife NGO Traffic, and part of a United States Agency for International Development program called ROUTES Reducing Opportunities for Unlawful Transport of Endangered Species.
They looked at airport seizures of wildlife products from 2009 to 2017 and discovered incidents in 130 countries, in a continuation of a previous report. The 2017 data showed rhino horn seizures were triple the level from just the year before. In addition to the rhino horn and elephant ivory, there were seizures of reptiles, birds, pangolins, marine products, and mammals, and they do this using large air hubs. It found collectively these categories represent 81% of the wildlife being trafficked.
The In Plane Sight report noted wildlife products like rhino horn, elephant ivory and pangolins go from Africa to Asia using either Middle East or European transits. If carrying live animals, like birds and reptiles, smugglers use direct flights and China was by far the most common destination for all seized wildlife products from 2009 to 2017.
According to TRAFFIC’s Michelle Owen, the ROUTES Partnership Lead “Wildlife trafficking has global implications for the environment, people and communities, and national security. Seizure data like this is vital to helping regulators, enforcement, and industry take action. By addressing wildlife trafficking, airports and airlines not only help protect endangered species, they also strengthen their operations and supply chains.” The report came with more than a dozen suggestions for preventing trafficking, from increased awareness of personnel and passengers, to stronger corporate policies and sharing between agencies of seizure data.