Environment - BIMCO Bulletin


ENVIRONMENT June 2020 United for Wildlife: Covid-19 causes drop in wildlife trafficking By Mette Kronholm Frnde, Communications Manager and Editor at BIMCO There are now well over four and a half million* confirmed cases of Covid-19 and trillions of dollars are being spent to bolster the worlds stricken economies. But the worldwide shutdown is resulting in some short-term benefits, including a cooling in demand for wildlife and a subsequent reduction in the illegal transportation of endangered species by sea and air, says the United for Wildlife Taskforces. Over the past 50 years, the world has lost some 60% of its wildlife. Millions of endangered animals are shipped and flown primarily from Africa to Asia, where they are used in traditional medicines or consumed as a delicacy. To stop this downward spiral and implement practices that will last, the United for Wildlife Taskforces are engaging the support of the private transport and finance sectors, as well as governments, organisations and law enforcement agencies. Demand for pangolin has dropped because of its links to the outbreak. This is unheard of; it has never happened before In addition, an unforeseen help has emerged: the Covid-19 pandemic. As bad as a pandemic like this is and they are awful hitting economies significantly and causing tremendous loss of life, there has been a positive effect on wildlife trade as a result of it, says Robert Campbell, programme manager of the United for The Duke Of Cambridge in Dar es Salaam port in 2018 Wildlife Taskforces, part of The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. When you talk about the scale of the crime and the demand for wildlife, looking at the facts, Covid-19 will have a significant impact on the wildlife trade. Already, demand for pangolin has dropped because of its links to the outbreak. This is unheard off; it has never happened before, says Campbell. Global transport networks have been heavily restricted to slow the spread of the virus. This severely limits distribution, and consumers of wildlife have been cautious to continue purchasing while the true cause of the virus has yet to be identified. Banning wet markets, but for how long? The most trafficked wildlife The most trafficked animal is the pangolin, or scaly anteater. A study between 2006 and 2013 (the latest decent survey available) found that, during that period, one million pangolins were trafficked. This figure will now have grown and is by far the largest trade. Pangolin scales are ground into powder and used in traditional medicines, and the animals meat is considered a delicacy in various countries; its blood, too, is often used as an ointment for fighting infection. In addition to pangolin, ivory and rhino horns are extremely valuable and are trafficked heavily, although not to the same extent as pangolin. Other focus areas for the Taskforces are big cats such as lions, tigers, leopards and jaguars, all of which are hunted for their bones and teeth. Much of the Taskforces intelligence information is of relevance to the timber industry, in which there is also a significant illegal trade; rosewood in particular is being shipped out of Africa in vast quantities. According to Campbell, the outbreak has resulted in a ban on the transportation and consumption of wild animals that are believed to be the source of the virus and, in effect, has severely restricted the illegal transport of wildlife products as well. China has already banned trade in wildlife, and Vietnam is in discussion about a similar crackdown, he says, although how the two countries will be able to police it, and whether the initiatives will push all such trade onto the black market, remains to be seen. The promising thing is that demand for wildlife has gone down here and now. The question is for how long and to what extent it will rise back up. An immediate response from those locations is good, but it will have to be followed up, says Campbell. On the back of the SARS outbreak, which is believed to have derived from live animals in a similar way to Covid-19, the wildlife markets eventually re-opened and demand gradually grew again. The role of shipping The extent of the problem is tremendous, says Campbell. To take one example: last year in Singapore, two shipments of roughly 13 tonnes of pangolin scales were picked up just two weeks apart. Twenty-six tonnes of pangolin scales equate to around 38,000 pangolins. The extent of this is absolutely enormous. Pangolins are fairly unknown creatures, but they are in fact the most trafficked mammal going, he says. Twenty-six tonnes of pangolin scales equate to around 38,000 pangolins. The extent of this is absolutely enormous One of the biggest challenges for the Taskforces is information sharing. The network is getting a lot of intelligence and it liaises with many wildlife trafficking intelligence providers, either individuals or NGOs, organisations and law enforcement agencies, and is aware of who the traffickers are. But passing on the lists and sharing the information with the private sector to expose the names of wildlife traffickers can be difficult because of GDPR rules. This is why it is so important to work with law enforcement agencies and bring stakeholders together such as the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the UKs Border Force and, on a global level, the World Customs Organization. Being law enforcement agencies, they can share those names, Campbell explains. In addition, we now have 170 members across both Taskforces Transport and Financial. These are 170 members of some of the worlds biggest shipping companies, biggest shipping associations, most recognised airline and the biggest global banks. Bringing in the private sector will have a big impact on the Taskforces work in the future, Campbell says, as the shipping companies, airlines and banks can help put an end to the rapid extinction of species by changing habits and thinking outside the box. The primary aim of the Taskforces is to make it impossible for criminals to use private sector infrastructure the transport network or financial frameworks to facilitate the trade of illegal wildlife. The absolute aim is that once the Taskforces are closed down, procedures and policies will have been established and taken up by businesses to an extent that it is business as usual something they use every day, just as they do to deal with narcotics trafficking or human trafficking, says Campbell. In an ideal world, by shipping companies and airlines adopting these policies, we get to a stage where we can push criminals out of commercial ventures. It is impossible to say you would push them out of all trade completely, because there will always be a black market somewhere, but if we can push them out of all commercial ventures, then we are making it very difficult for the criminals to operate. *At the time of writing. United for Wildlife Transport Taskforces The formation of the United for Wildlife Transport Taskforces were announced at Buckingham Palace in 2014 by The Duke of Cambridge with the objective of engaging the help of the transport and financial sectors in identifying and developing relevant and targeted solutions to combat wildlife trafficking. The Transport Taskforce brings together stakeholders including airports, shipping companies and airlines with law enforcement and other agencies to identify and facilitate action led by the private sector. The Taskforce has developed the Buckingham Palace Declaration, which outlines 11 commitments that assist the transport industry in guiding a response to the challenge presented by illegal wildlife trade. It details actions across a number of areas including increasing awareness, reporting and enforcement. Now supported by more than 100 transport sector companies from across the globe, the Taskforce is taking steps every day to help stop the trafficking of wildlife products. Visit the United for Wildlife Taskforces website for more information. Connect with BIMCO Facebook Twitter Linkedin YouTube