One of Africa’s largest airlines and five celebrities from around the globe have joined forces with UN Environment on World Wildlife Day to help put an end to the illicit international trade in wildlife driving myriad species to the brink of extinction.
The illegal trade in wildlife is lining the pockets of criminal networks with an estimated $23 billion annually: putting the trade in the same league as the trafficking of drugs, arms and humans.
Today, Kenya’s flagship international airline, Kenya Airways, announced it is partnering with UN Environment to effectively cut off one of the main transport routes used by criminals to smuggle wildlife, dead or alive, from Africa to the Middle East and East Asia. The partnership comes in the wake of a poaching crisis across Africa that is wreaking havoc on creatures great and small, from elephants and rhinos to pangolins and African Gray Parrots.
”We are delighted to announce, on the occasion of World Wildlife Day, a partnership between Kenya Airways and UN Environment to help end the illegal trade in wildlife,” said head of UN Environment Erik Solheim. “The engagement of private sector companies is critical to tackling wildlife crime. Airlines in particular connect a large global consumer base and unfortunately the illegal supply chain. They can act as a front line agent for change. We applaud Kenya Airways for this initiative and are pleased to support their commitment to help end this scourge.”
Kenya Airways, which flies to 51 international destinations, has a zero-tolerance policy for illegal wildlife trade and works closely with governments and aid agencies, especially at its hub in Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi, to help ensure illegal wildlife products are not being transported on its aircrafts. The company now wants to scale up its efforts by working with UN Environment to provide regular messaging about wildlife crime prevention across its customer touch points, including in-flight entertainment and announcements, and staff trainings.
Kenya Airways Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Mr Mbuvi Ngunze, said that the partnership with UN Environment underlines the airline’s commitment to fighting illegal wildlife trade.
“The threat facing wildlife is serious, especially in Africa, where cases of wildlife poaching are rampant, largely driven by the demand for ivory and rhino horn, but impacting many species. We all have a responsibility to support the conservation of wildlife and it is imperative that everyone gets more involved in stopping the vice,” Mr Ngunze said.
“It is unbelievable that there are people who hunt Jaguars for their fur or for “sports”. From poaching and the loss of habitat, the population of the Jaguar has declined alarmingly, making us both witnesses and accomplices of its extinction. I want to do everything in my power to stop this from happening and to guarantee the life of the Jaguar, as well as of the plants and animals that depend on the Jaguar´s survival. The Jaguar is a beautiful animal, free and indomitable, a spiritual symbol of the human being. I support the Wild for Life campaign to save the Jaguar and all other species in danger of extinction,” Mexican actor/director Gael García Bernal.
Putting an end to the illegal trade in wildlife requires the commitment of everyone from governments to the private sector and dedication of those preventing poaching on the ground. But it critically requires educating and motivating ordinary citizens, who as consumers are responsible for driving the demand for wildlife and wildlife parts, to make choices that do not harm endangered species. From pangolin scales to hornbill casques to rhino horn, elephant ivory and live animals like apes and parrots, there are endless examples of purchasing decisions that are driving species toward extinction.
Helping to raise awareness and mobilize public action are four celebrities, who are joining UN Environment’s Wild for Life campaign today, each representing a different species threatened by illegal trade: