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ROUTES and AviaDev. Collaborating for the benefit of Africa

ROUTES (Reducing Opportunities for the Unlawful Transportation of Endangered Species) was established in October 2015 with a five-year mandate of collaboration and implementation of activities to assist the transport sector in efforts to reduce wildlife trafficking via land, sea and air. 

We are delighted that Afsoon Namini, Director of the Private sector engagement team will be with us in Cape Town this June to explain what the aviation industry can do to prevent illegal wildlife trafficking, a huge issue in Africa.

AviaDev aims to be a forum where real change can be achieved and not a "talking shop". We have programmes running that involve educational outreach for local young people, charitable initiatives (fundraising fun run) and are passionate about the development of the African continent. As a Global Ambassador for the UK Charity, the Gorilla Organization, I am passionate about protecting Africa's greatest asset (after its people), namely its flora and fauna.

Ahead of the event, I spoke with Afsoon to understand the challenges ROUTES face.

JH: ROUTES will be providing an overview of the true scale of the wildlife trafficking problem during AviaDev Africa 2018. Just how big is the problem globally?

 AN: Estimated to be worth up to $23 billion (USD) a year, wildlife crime is a global issue reaching most continents in some form, whether as the source, a transit point, or a market. This devastating trade deteriorates natural resources, risks communities’ health, and contributes to regional instability. Wildlife trafficking also carries with it the risk of zoonotic diseases- these are potentially life-threatening diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans such as Ebola, SARS, or Monkey Pox. Further compounding the risks, wildlife trafficking devastates wildlife populations which are often a key driver for companies and communities that rely on wildlife for revenue associated with ecotourism.

Wildlife trafficking has become one of the most prominent forms of international crime globally, often associated with other illicit activities like drug or human trafficking. For a deeper look at the scale and trends in wildlife trafficking, USAID’s Reducing Opportunities for Unlawful Transport of Endangered Species (ROUTES) Partnership recently released Flying Under the Radar: Wildlife Trafficking in the Air Transport Sector, the most comprehensive assessment of wildlife trafficking across the air transport sector to date.

JH: What are the biggest challenges in Africa?

 AN: Africa faces unique challenges when it comes to stopping illegal wildlife trade because of the abundance of wildlife naturally present in the region, the economic disparity facing many communities, and the advancing technology being used to hunt and poach iconic species.

African countries have some of the largest populations of iconic species like elephant and rhino; some of which are not found on any other continent in the world, thus creating a demand for these coveted wildlife parts. In turn, the demand for these prized wildlife parts drives prices sky high. Beyond the high payoff of selling the wildlife parts, there’s a low risk of being caught and if caught, sentences and fines are not substantial enough to deter future cases. To compound the issue, poaching has become more and more sophisticated. We are seeing advanced technology being used to hunt and poach these iconic species.

JH: What is already being done to reduce the amount of wildlife trafficking on the continent?

 AN: ROUTES carried out a study to identify prominent wildlife trafficking hotspots and routes; this study has helped inform the strategy and training being delivered to key locations throughout the continent. As a result, ROUTES has been conducting a training “tour” of Africa in which a few airlines such as Kenya Airways and LAM have hosted training to share how frontline employees play a key role in preventing the trafficking of wildlife. In this tour, we are conducting single or two-day training sessions focused on awareness raising or role-specific training at wildlife trafficking African hotspots identified in the study. Aside from the training, companies like South African Airways have installed to scale awareness installations indicating some of the most common methods of concealment. We’re also gaining insightful information from local stakeholders to continuously improve our training; for example, local airline employees have shared new ways they are seeing wildlife and wildlife parts being smuggled in to and out of African countries, and this information is being integrated into our resources.

 JH: If there is one thing an airport/ airline could do straight away, what would it be?

 AN: Transport staff have an important role to play in combating wildlife trafficking and incorporating wildlife training into established staff training is a critical step to institutionalizing effective change. This will help ensure the longevity of counter wildlife trafficking training at your company.

You can find materials on the ROUTES website to include in your training, strengthen your policies and protocols, and raise awareness around wildlife trafficking. For additional support, reach out to the ROUTES team through our contact page, we are here to support your efforts.

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