Executive Briefings

Study: Airports Remain Weak Link in Preventing Illegal Animal Trafficking

Criminal organizations that smuggle endangered animals and animal products are exploiting security vulnerabilities at large hub airports, according to a new study conducted in collaboration with the U.S. government, the transportation sector and more than 20 other partners.

One weakness in particular, lack of communication, is allowing smugglers to stay one step ahead of enforcement.

“Airlines are rarely informed if there has been a wildlife seizure from a passenger or cargo shipment carried by their aircraft,” said Jon Godson, IATA’s assistant director of the aviation environment. “Data like this can demonstrate not only high-risk routes, species and concealment methods, but also the truly global nature of this exploitation.”

The report, “Flying Under the Radar: Wildlife Trafficking in the Air Transport Sector,” produced by C4ADS as part of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Reducing Opportunities for Unlawful Transport of Endangered Species (ROUTES) Partnership, analyzed airport seizures of ivory, rhino horn, birds and reptiles from January 2009 to August 2016.

The consortium of organizations called on both the private sector and law enforcement to close security loopholes by stepping up screening and enforcement, and also by improving information sharing. The report recommended that countries “store collected seizure information in one centralized database in each country.” It also suggested that enforcement “publicly release non-sensitive seizure information,” to facilitate a concerted response across the board.

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One weakness in particular, lack of communication, is allowing smugglers to stay one step ahead of enforcement.

“Airlines are rarely informed if there has been a wildlife seizure from a passenger or cargo shipment carried by their aircraft,” said Jon Godson, IATA’s assistant director of the aviation environment. “Data like this can demonstrate not only high-risk routes, species and concealment methods, but also the truly global nature of this exploitation.”

The report, “Flying Under the Radar: Wildlife Trafficking in the Air Transport Sector,” produced by C4ADS as part of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Reducing Opportunities for Unlawful Transport of Endangered Species (ROUTES) Partnership, analyzed airport seizures of ivory, rhino horn, birds and reptiles from January 2009 to August 2016.

The consortium of organizations called on both the private sector and law enforcement to close security loopholes by stepping up screening and enforcement, and also by improving information sharing. The report recommended that countries “store collected seizure information in one centralized database in each country.” It also suggested that enforcement “publicly release non-sensitive seizure information,” to facilitate a concerted response across the board.

Read Full Article