New study released to help airports tackle wildlife trafficking
The ROUTES Partnership has released its latest study highlighting the problem of wildlife trafficking in the LAC region and how airports can work to combat it.
Posted on May 20, 2021, a new research study, ‘To take off’, used publicly available data on wildlife seizures in the air transport sector between 2010 and 2020 to provide the most comprehensive assessment of wildlife trafficking by air in the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region ) nowadays.
Published by USAID Reduce opportunities for illegal transport of endangered species (ROUTES) Partnership, the study aims to inform the aviation industry within or with links to LAC on how it can strengthen its defenses against wildlife trafficking.
To this end, researchers at the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS) used data from the C4ADS aerial seizure database to examine what types of wildlife are taken where and the methods traffickers use to make them. smuggle after law enforcement.
“The trends identified in this research can be exploited by airports and airlines to disrupt attempted traffic. For example, knowing that Brazil sees large volumes of aquatic species being smuggled into Germany and birds into the Netherlands may encourage increased vigilance along these routes, ”explains Michelle Owen, ROUTES manager. “Aviation personnel in Colombia may pay special attention to air cargo, knowing that this is where illegal wildlife is most often found in the country.”
Wildlife trafficking in Latin America and the Caribbean is in dire need of attention. The region is home to more than 40% of the world’s biodiversity, but, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), animal populations have fallen by 94% in the past 50 years – the largest drop recorded in n ‘any part of the world, due to factors such as habitat loss, disease and trade.
Moreover, the protection of biodiversity is not the only source of concern in the LAC region: “The particular vulnerability of the LAC region does not lie only in its fantastic biodiversity, which makes it a target. of choice for wildlife criminals. It is also home to some of the most sophisticated and violent trafficking networks in the world, which sell weapons, drugs and human beings. Several of them also have demonstrable links to global wildlife trafficking, ”says Henry Peyronnin, one of the report’s authors at C4ADS. “Understanding and responding to the movements of these networks has the potential to protect not only wildlife, but humans as well.”
Although the brief focuses on the LAC region, the conclusions it contains are of global concern. Fifty-three countries were linked to wildlife trafficking through air transport in, to and from LAC countries between 2010 and 2020, with frequent shipments of its unique endemic animals to meet demand. in Europe, North America and Asia.
The most commonly trafficked animals were birds, primarily finches, which accounted for 33% of all LAC bird seizures in aviation from 2010 to 2020. A substantial proportion of birds were destined for the United States, putting in light of a less well-known but damaging demand. for the songbirds out there. Songbird competitions, especially in New York City, are the motivation for much of the smuggling of finches from Georgetown to Guyana.
Intra-regional trafficking was also a frequent occurrence, with many reptiles and birds sought after as exotic pets in LAC countries. While other countries acted primarily as exporters, Brazil stood out for the size of its domestic market, recording the highest level of domestic trade. The study identified an emerging trend for aquatic species in Brazil, with in 2019 a sharp increase in the trafficking of Zebra Pleco – sought after as a pet for its striking coloring – and a demand for the skin of the Pirarucu fish, used for the leather.
The fact that 40% of known seizures in the Latin America and Caribbean region between 2010 and 2020 were of live animals (often intended for companion animals) is also of concern, which a previous C4ADS report noted as a risk of spread. zoonotic diseases.
“The information in this report is very valuable for the effective training of personnel and the continued collaboration between aviation stakeholders, customs and law enforcement authorities. ACI World and ROUTES outreach and training resources help airports understand their crucial role in combating wildlife trafficking, ”says Juliana Scavuzzi, Senior Director of Sustainability, Environmental Protection. environment and legal affairs at Airports Council International (ACI) World.
The ROUTES partnership strengthens its engagement with the airline industry in the LAC region through tailor-made webinars; provision of training material on combating wildlife trafficking in Spanish and Portuguese; and advice tailored to airlines looking for support in this area.