This week, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is calling for airlines and airports to contribute more actively to ending wildlife trafficking. The air travel industry, the organization says, has the potential to stop profitable and illegal wildlife trafficking in some scenarios and even lead to prevention.
At the AviaDev conference on Wednesday, Director of the WWF Private Sector Engagement Team, Afsoon Namini, talked through the scope of wildlife trafficking, the impacts beyond the unfortunate endangerment of animals and, most importantly, she addressed what exactly the travel industry can do to lessen wildlife trafficking beyond the precautions that certain companies are taking.
Mainly, Namini pushed for airlines and airports to teach their employees to recognize wildlife trafficking and to know what to do when it’s detected. Already, Delta, Kenya Airways and Etihad have worked with USAID to combat the problem by means of training and responding. However, other airlines have yet to prioritize the preventative measures in their protocol.
Another way that airlines and airports can be proactive on the issue is by infiltrating a whistleblower policy. “Companies need to create standard reporting processes so that staff know who to alert if they suspect something,” said Namini.
Some airlines have been able to make external policies that will help the cause beyond the suggestions of Namini. In 2015, just a few weeks after the death of Cecil the Lion, Delta decided to “ban shipment of all lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo trophies.” A few short weeks after, United and American did the same.
The issue of wildlife trafficking has threatened animals to an almost inconceivable extent. In her presentation at the conference, Namini laid out some daunting statistics: “About 55 elephants are killed every day for their ivory. A rhino is killed every eight hours for its horn. About 317,000 live birds are trafficked annually. A ranger is killed in the line of duty, on average, every three days.”
On top of the tangible research that’s been conducted about the safety of animals, there are other reasons that the travel industry needs to further focus on the issue. Transport of the products pose a threat to the safety and health of those in the vicinity. Plus, wildlife trafficking is often linked to other types of trafficking, as pointed out by Namini. It’s possible to catch other types of illegal trade in the process of finding wildlife trafficking.
Featured image by SIA KAMBOU/AFP/Getty Images.