The illegal trade of wildlife is the fourth most lucrative black market in the world – worth around $20 billion a year and impacting more than 7,000 species of animals and plants. Criminal organisations involved in wildlife trafficking are often directly connected to other trafficking networks, including the smuggling of narcotics, arms and people, and exploit the increasing connectivity of global air transportation to traffic the endangered species. The air cargo industry is therefore one of the key aviation sectors acting to break the supply chain from source to consumer.
One of the initiatives is the United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce Buckingham Palace Declaration, which IATA, along with around 50 of its member airlines and ACI, has signed. Signatories have committed to raise awareness of wildlife trafficking among passengers, train staff to help spot trafficked species, establish a system to share information on illegal wildlife trade and improve cooperation between transport bodies and regulatory and enforcement organisations.
Airlines and airports devote resources for extensive passenger awareness campaigns to educate potential buyers of illegal wildlife products, including exhibits at Dubai, Johannesburg and Kuala Lumpur International Airports, on board videos and feature-length articles in in-flight magazines.
Two Emirates A380s have even taken to the skies with special liveries featuring wildlife threatened by poaching and the illegal wildlife trade to communicate the need for urgent action.
Airlines are further rolling out training programmes to improve the capacity of their cargo and customer-facing staff to be on the alert for suspicious signs relating to illegal wildlife transportation and to detect and report them.
Etihad Airways developed its own online module designed to inform its employees of the business risks associated with the illegal wildlife trade and ways to prevent them. Among others, Kenya Airways, Singapore Airlines, Turkish Airlines and LAM Mozambique, together with airports, train cabin crew, ground handlers, cargo processors, and staff from regional airports to help detect and stop smugglers carrying ivory, rhino horn, and other wildlife products.