An increased interest in Caribbean wildlife is fueling trafficking of the area’s plants, animals and other natural resources. This is contributing to the decline and potential extinction of animal species such as sea turtles, blue and gold macaws and coral reefs – natural treasures that draw travelers to the Caribbean. In many cases, visitors may unwittingly be contributing to the decline of the very things they want to experience.
The Caribbean’s island geography makes it a highly biodiverse region. It is home to approximately 6,500 plant, 150 bird, 470 reptile, 40 mammal, 170 amphibian and 65 fish species not found anywhere else in the world. The global wildlife trafficking crisis threatens many of these species, which are used, often illegally, as pets, medicine, food, jewelry, clothing, souvenirs and household decorations. For example, sea turtles are used for food, jewelry and items such as combs; birds are taken from the wild and sold as pets or their feathers incorporated into souvenirs; unique reptiles are sold as exotic pets and used for clothing; and coral is taken for use in jewelry and décor.
“More than one-third of our travel is to the Caribbean and Latin America. We are dedicated to protecting its beauty and health, which in turn protects tourism and our business,” said Sophia Mendelsohn, JetBlue’s head of sustainability. “Like many travelers, I was not initially aware of the extent wildlife trafficking has threatened many species and the unique nature of the Caribbeanthat people fly to absorb.”
“This film is a great step forward in efforts to educate the public on the role they can play in combating wildlife trafficking,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “The potential to reach the 35 million people who fly with JetBlue each year is an unprecedented opportunity for us to communicate with the very people we hope will be empowered as guardians of the Caribbean’s wildlife.”
On March 3, 2016 – World Wildlife Day – JetBlue and the Service announced a five-year partnership to combat wildlife trafficking. Since then, they have worked to engage local Caribbean conservation heroes in this short film. These individuals illustrate the important work taking place in local communities to protect wildlife.
“Protecting the world's most endangered species requires American consumers to make smart choices when traveling abroad,” said David J. Hayes, chair of the Alliance. “JetBlue's commitment to help educate consumers is a critical step forward to ending the demand that has fueled this illegal trade. Its new film will make a big impact by showing consumers how to buy informed and helping to create a culture of responsible tourism.”