IATA: Airlines are united for wildlife

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LONDON, England – On behalf of the aviation industry, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) signed a declaration aimed at reducing the illegal trafficking of wildlife and underlining the aviation industry’s commitment to sustainability.

The interconnected air transport network is being exploited by criminal gangs to smuggle animals or their products from the killing field to the market place. The air transport industry can help stop this trade by providing additional intelligence to enforcement authorities about suspicious shipments.

“I can think of few other causes that galvanize more interest and support across the global transport and logistics sectors than the challenge of wildlife trafficking, said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

The ‘United for Wildlife’ initiative, created by the Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry , invited representatives of the transport industry to Buckingham Palace to pledge their support. IATA, Airports Council International, the African Airlines Association and a number of individual airlines signed commitments aimed at raising awareness of the trafficking issue among passengers, and training staff to recognize and report suspicious packages and behavior. The initial focus of action will be on the trafficking of high-risk protected animals, specifically certain big cats, pangolins, and ivory products, on high-risk routes, particularly originating from or transiting through East Africa.

“Today marks a step forward for environmental protection—a commitment that we take very seriously. In the 1990’s the industry came together to address noise. More recently we joined forces to manage our impact on climate change—committing as an industry to carbon-neutral growth from 2020 and to cut net emissions to half the 2005 levels by 2050. We now extend that commitment to playing an active role in reducing illegal trafficking of wildlife. We will collaborate in support of government enforcement authorities to put an end to this evil trade,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

Cooperation with enforcement authorities and international conservation organizations such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species ( CITES) has already begun. Two awareness-raising workshops for airline and airport staff have been held at international airports in Nairobi and Bangkok. In addition, IATA joined the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Reducing Opportunities for Unlawful Transport of Endangered Species (ROUTES) Partnership. New guidance material for airlines has been published, and an IATA Environment Committee Wildlife Taskforce has been set up to monitor progress and provide advice on the next steps.

REMARKS OF TONY TYLER ON THE UNITED FOR WILDLIFE DECLARATION

Your Royal Highness, Lord Hague, distinguished guests, on this important occasion it is a pleasure to provide a few words on behalf of the International Air Transport Association’s 260 member airlines and the air transport industry of which they are a part.

I can think of few other causes that galvanize interest and support, across the global transport and logistics sectors, than the challenge of wildlife trafficking.

I would like to express the appreciation of the air transport industry to his Royal Highness for his dedication and commitment to this important cause and to Lord Hague for his skilled chairmanship.

I would also like to recognize the special commitment and support of the CEOs of Emirates and Kenya Airways who served on the United for Wildlife Transport Task Force. In particular, I must recognize Sir Tim Clark. His drive and enthusiasm has been unwavering.

As you can see from the global representation of the air transport sector—including airlines and airports—this work is inspiring a growing industry commitment.

Air transport is a force for good—connecting people, linking businesses, broadening horizons, growing international understanding and catalyzing social and economic development.

And with each of the 100,000 flights that will take off today we earn our license to grow with dedication to safety, security, efficiency and sustainability.

Today marks a step forward on sustainability—a commitment that we take very seriously.

In the 1990’s the industry came together to address noise. Today’s modern aircraft are 30% quieter than those at the turn of the century.

More recently we joined forces to manage our impact on climate change—committing as in industry to carbon-neutral growth from 2020 and to cut net emissions to half the 2005 levels by 2050.

Today, we extend that commitment to playing a proactive role in reducing the illegal trafficking of wildlife.

The global air transport network is being exploited by wildlife traffickers. There are many examples of very sophisticated smugglers. Some travel in groups on convoluted routes. Others mis-describe shipments. Some carry contraband on their body in ingenious ways.

Government enforcement authorities work hard to spot and stop these activities. But their window of observation is limited. Airlines signing on to the United for Wildlife Declaration will support their important work in several ways.

Frist, we will raise awareness of the issue amongst travelers. Sir Tim has painted it on A380’s carrying the message across the Emirates global network. Materials are being prepared for airlines to share with their passengers in various ways throughout their journey. And by working together in the IATA Airline Wildlife Task Force, best practices are being spread across the industry.

Second, it might not be top of mind, but there are safety concerns in this issue. To start, controlling illegal trade in wildlife helps keep passengers and crew safe while on board. We have several examples of sometimes dangerous surprises escaping luggage. These have been as small as scorpions or as large as crocodiles and baboons! And more broadly, public health benefits from controlling the movement of animals which may carry infectious diseases if not properly handled through quarantine procedures.

Thirdly, we commit to raise awareness amongst airline staff through training sessions that help them to spot and report suspicious activity. In recent months we have worked with partnerships of airlines, airports and authorities from Kenya to Thailand. For these and many other countries, ensuring a sustainable environment for wildlife has the further benefit of preserving a tourism resource that supports many livelihoods.

Lastly, all of this activity fits into a bigger picture of collaboration amongst industry and both national and global institutions. Through IATA, for example, airlines have a formalized relationship with the US Agency for International Development on a Partnership for Reducing Opportunities for Unlawful Transport of Endangered Species (ROUTES). The United for Wildlife initiative has added a new dimension to our work with the World Customs Organization which operates a critical reporting platform. And last year we deepened our cooperation with CITES, the UN body responsible for regulating the international trade in protected species. Last year IATA signed an agreement to work with CITES which is helping us to operationalize the spirit of the United for Wildlife Declaration.

So my message today is that signing this United for Wildlife’s Buckingham Palace Declaration is not a one-off event for the airline industry. Cooperation and collaboration across the air transport industry in support of the important mission of government enforcement authorities is already happening in many areas. With today’s declaration we are moving our industry commitment to an even higher level.

As I mentioned earlier, aviation is a force for good in our world. You can count on us to play a responsible role in helping authorities put an end to this evil trade.