There were a lot of topics covered at the AGM of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) last week. In a previous blog we took a look at an interview with the CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, where he discussed the value of aviation to the Ethiopian economy. Today, we thought that you might find this speech from the Secretary General of CITES, John Scanlon, on the issue of wildlife crime interesting.

CITIES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, is an international agreement between governments drawn up in 1975. As the name suggests, CITES is tasked with regulating the international wildlife trade, ensuring that any legal trade is sustainable and trying to combat the increasingly prevalent scourge of illegal wildlife trade.

Some of the facts revealed by John Scanlon are as startling as they are concerning. Many exotic species, such as wild tigers and mountain gorillas are dangerously close to extinction. In the case of the White Rhino, there is only one male left on the entire planet, who has to be guarded day and night by a team of armed rangers to ensure his survival. 

Mr Scanlon also points out that illegal wildlife trade doesn’t only affect the animals themselves, but people too. Rangers are often murdered so that poachers can access the animals they are looking for and government officials are regularly corrupted. That’s not even to mention the impact on tourism related GDP.

Of course, many of these animals are transported to their final destination by air and CITES have stressed how valuable the aviation industry can be in preventing illegal trade. Articles such as rhino horn and worked ivory are usually transported by air and, as Mr Scanlon points out, finding them is like searching for a needle in a haystack, considering the scale of global aviation.

To try and combat wildlife crime, John Scanlon puts a call out to airlines, asking them to adopt a zero tolerance policy on illegal trade; raise awareness with customers and passengers on the scale of the problem; and support customs and enforcement agencies by gathering intelligence. We are sure that airlines all over globe will do their best to help halt this illegal trade.