Kenya Airports Authority has joined more than 100 transport sector companies who have confirmed their support to combat wildlife trafficking by signing the United for Wildlife (UFW) Transport Taskforce Buckingham Palace Declaration. The agreement sets out tangible steps that can be taken to close the routes exploited by traffickers of the illegal wildlife trade as they attempt to move their products from rare and vulnerable ecosystems to market.
The signing ceremony took place during the Asia-Pacific/World Annual General Assembly, Conference and Exhibition held at the AsiaWorld-Expo in Hong Kong early this month.
The illegal wildlife trade threatens the future existence of many of the world’s most iconic species and is one of the five most lucrative global crimes. The declaration is a landmark agreement which forms an action plan to strengthen and coordinate action against trafficking. It brings focus and collaboration to efforts by airports and other stakeholders to break the link between the rapidly escalating poaching crisis in regions like Africa and the demand for illegal wildlife products elsewhere around the world.
“Species are being hunted to extinction through the illegal killing and trading of wild animals. We seek to build a broad international coalition to be truly effective in combatting these deplorable practices,” ACI World Director General Angela Gittens said. “Airports play a key role in this fight and those that have become new signatories to the Buckingham Palace Declaration have demonstrated their commitment to combatting this trade. We encourage more airports and more of our partners to collaborate with us in this important work.”
Chair of the United for Wildlife Taskforce, Lord William Hague, said,
“I wholeheartedly welcome those members of ACI who have committed to join our Taskforce by signing the Buckingham Palace Declaration, and would like to thank ACI for providing such an opportunity.”
Managing Director and CEO of Kenya Airports Authority, Jonny Andersen, commented,
“Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) is the first Airport Authority in Africa to have signed the Buckingham Palace declaration. This is as a result of recognizing the threat of illegal trade in the region and taking proactive actions.
KAA Chairman, Mr. Isaac Awuondo noted that, the authority is committed to the fight against Illegal Wildlife Trafficking by enacting laws, developing policies and procedures and training our personnel to ensure that illegal wildlife products do not pass through our airports.
“JKIA is the first airport in the world that has setup a Law Court within the vicinity of the airport so to fast track cases related to wildlife crime, this goes to show how serious we are in the fight against this vice ” Said Mr. Awuondo.
What Encouraged KAA to Implement Such a Program
JKIA is one of the leading hubs in Africa and has a huge volume of cargo and passengers respectively passing through either as origin, transit or destination with the airport recording high numbers of seizures of contraband destined for China and Vietnam.
Kenya’s national airline, Kenya Airways, operates direct flights from Nairobi to Eastern Asia and has reported passengers carrying wildlife contraband as part of their baggage. To combat this, re-screening of all transit bags and cargo by the security team on targeted routes was implemented leading to a decline in the trafficking of illegal game trophies in Nairobi.
Nonetheless, with the number of transit goods and passengers increasing, there is a need to increase vigilance and create awareness on illegal wildlife products and trafficking.
The drivers that encouraged the authority in the countering of wildlife trafficking activities include sustainability, conservation, health and safety of staff and passengers, reputation, wildlife maintenance for nature-based tourism and the communities that rely on wildlife as part of their economy.
Together with Kenya Airways, we have harmonized systems for the seamless sharing of information about suspicious wildlife trafficking activity and in partnership with Kenya Wildlife Service; the authority has introduced canine units trained to detect wildlife products on passenger bags and cargo to address the gap. In addition, judicial process for wildlife trafficking cases used to be very lengthy. With the new court of law within JKIA, the fight against illegal wildlife trade has been boosted with faster processing of cases.
In preparation for the upcoming CITES Conference set to be held between the 29th of May and 3rd of June 2019, KAA has partnered with the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife in creating awareness of the ban on Illegal Wildlife Trade by rolling out a campaign dubbed; ’Ivory Trade is a Rip Off…Our animals are getting ripped apart’. The campaign involves the installation of banners at JKIA to engage global travelers during the period of the conference and extensively express concern and plea for total ban of ivory trade.
Kenya Airports Authority’s Action:
- Adopted the zero-tolerance policy on illegal Wildlife Trade incidences
- Sponsored a booth during World Wildlife Day at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to educate passengers on the illegal wildlife trade
- Created a hotline number to allow people to report suspicious illegal wildlife trafficking activity easily
- Posted a permanent message on its website and throughout its airports about their zero-tolerance policy.
KAA Stakeholders involved in the fight against illegal wildlife trade:
- Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife
- Kenya Airways
- Kenya Wildlife Service
- Kenya Police
- Kenya Customs Officials