Last week Lucy Campbell, a Hills Balfour Director and blogger was invited to Buckingham Palace to witness an historic signing in the presence of HRH The Duke of Cambridge and Lord Hague of Richmond to further crack down on illegal wildlife products. The Buckingham Palace Declaration is the result of a year’s worth of meetings, research, and coalition building by the United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce and transport representatives on the Taskforce include companies and organisations based in China, USA, UAE, Kenya, the UK and Denmark.
This Buckingham Palace Declaration recognises that while an open and efficient transportation structure is key for the world economy, the exploitation of shipping and trade routes by traffickers enables violence, corruption, crime and deprivation that present a threat to communities around the world. Therefore it is focusing on one of the crucial missing links – the third element – the vulnerabilities in transportation and customs that are being exploited by traffickers to move their spoils from killing field to marketplace. As Lord Hague said “the convening power of the British Royal Family will motivate this to happen and is part of the link that will make it much harder for this to happen.” He went on to say that it was “really too late, but not quite too late to save our endangered species.”
They have brought together a strong critical mass of some of the biggest players in the field of road, sea and air in order to shut down the most vulnerable points in global transportation.
The signing ceremony with 40 signatories agreeing to 11 commitments:-
The three main areas they are going to be focusing on are:-
- Zero tolerance and raising awareness for customs staff around the world.
- Securing information sharing systems about high risk routes and then working with law enforcement agencies.
- Cross disciplinary teams who can work in ports to develop best practices for cargoes suspected of containing illegal wildlife and their products.
The Duke of Cambridge went on to make clear that iconic animals such as the elephant and the rhinoceros would be extinct before his daughter Charlotte reached her 21st birthday unless something was done immediately. “If we do not turn this around in the next five years then we will have lost this battle forever”, he said. What came across strongly was his responsibility towards his children and to future generations and the sort of world they will inherit.
Forty CEOs, Chairmen, and other leaders of airlines, shipping firms, port operators, customs agencies, intergovernmental organisations and conservation charities from around the world convened at the palace to become the founding signatories of the Declaration of the United for Wildlife International Taskforce on the Transportation of Illegal Wildlife Products. The partnership comes in the wake of a surge in wildlife poaching across Africa, with elephants and rhino among the worst hit.
The work of the United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce has been strongly supported not only by the transport sector but a number of intergovernmental agencies including the World Customs Organisation, the United Nations Development Programme and importantly the Convention on Illegal Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) – the world’s regulatory instrument on trade in endangered species.
Signatories included Emirates Airline, Qatar Airways, World Wildlife Fund – UK, the World Customs Organisation and industry bodies such as the International Air Transport.
Maersk Group, China COSCO Shipping, Dubai Ports World and the UK Chamber of Shipping. Although a number of trade routes are used for the smuggling of wildlife products, shipping is a significant transporter.
James Hogan, Etihad Airways President and Chief Executive Officer, who signed the declaration on behalf of the airline, said: “We recognise the significant role that the airlines can play in preventing the smuggling of wildlife and products. Whilst the airlines cannot act as regulators, we are able to support enforcement authorities and assist in raising passenger awareness. We encourage others in this sector to sign up to this declaration to help prevent this abhorrent practice.” Etihad Airways is also engaged with animal welfare on a broader scale, as part of its efforts to reduce its “Animal Footprint”. The airline works in partnership with the international wildlife NGO, the Born Free Foundation to ensure the airline’s holiday activities and the transportation of animals have a minimal impact on animal welfare and conservation. It is developing policies and programmes to reduce this risk. To address the commitments the airline will be working closely with IATA, the global airline association and another signatory to the Declaration, on shared initiatives.
Kenya Airways has taken a responsible step forward to prevent the growing trade in illegal wildlife and products around the world. The carrier was a founding member of the task force and was another one of the signatories. The Nairobi-based airline was represented by group managing director and chief executive Mbuvi Ngunze. “Kenya Airways has a zero tolerance policy regarding illegal wildlife trade and by being a signatory of this declaration we are reinforcing our stand. We work closely with other government agencies, especially at JKIA, to ensure illegal products are not being transported on our aircrafts,” Ngunze said in a statement issued in Nairobi Friday. He noted that the threat facing wildlife, especially in Africa, where poaching has been on the increase, was serious and it was therefore important that everyone became more involved in stopping the vice.
Other signatories to the declaration to come from the African continent were South African Airlines (SAA) and the African Airlines Association (AFRAA).
Qatar Airways also signed the United for Wildlife Transport Industry Declaration at Buckingham Palace and Qatar Airways Chief Officer Cargo, Mr. Ulrich Ogiermann was present to sign the declaration. “We are extremely proud to be part of this initiative which recognises the need to protect endangered species from illegal trade and transportation,” said Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker. “It is important that we work together as an industry to prevent violations of the regulations that have been put in place to safeguard these animals and to adopt a zero tolerance policy regarding illegal wildlife trade.
“As one of the world’s leading airlines, serving customers across six continents, we acknowledge our responsibility to society, to the community and to the environment; therefore we have a strict policy governing the types of animals and animal products that are banned for carriage on board Qatar Airways.”
The United For Wildlife (UFW) declaration, which is also supported by the International Air Transport Association, commits the participating airlines to increase passenger, customer, client, and staff awareness about the nature, scale, and consequences of illegal wildlife trade, as well as helps to develop mechanisms to enable the transport sector to receive timely information about the transport of suspected illegal wildlife and their products, including methods of transportation, key routes, ports and other locations.
The Duke of Cambridge, as President of “United for Wildlife” has been busy putting his influence to good use and yesterday he unveiled an ambitious, transport-industry led Declaration developed by the transport sector. With his backing and leadership there is a far greater possibility that a real difference can be made to saving the African elephant, rhinoceros and other endangered species.
The United for Wildlife International Taskforce on the Transportation of Illegal Wildlife Products” led by Lord Hague of Richmond and comprising of leaders from all round the globe have spent the last year working on an 11 point agreement that was signed before my eyes at Buckingham Palace. United For Wildlife is an unprecedented alliance between seven of the world’s most influential conservation organisations and The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. The collaboration between the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Conservation International (CI), Fauna & Flora International (FFI), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), WWF-UK and The Royal Foundation hopes to lead the way to substantially increase the global response to major conservation crisis.
Lord Hague chatting with the press:-
“Lets step up to the challenge. We cannot afford to waste a single day.”
After his speech, both Lord Hague (of Richmond) and the Duke of Cambridge signed the agreement along with the 40 or so big hitters in the transportation sector:-
William Hague signing:-
The Campaign Trail for “United For Wildlife” begins: #WhoseSideAreYouOn
The Duke of Cambridge talking to Andy Harmer, Director of CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association)
About United for Wildlife
United for Wildlife is an unprecedented alliance between seven of the world’s most influential conservation organisations and The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.
The collaboration between the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Conservation International (CI), Fauna & Flora International (FFI), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), WWF-UK and The Royal Foundation hopes to lead the way to substantially increase the global response to major conservation crisis.
To learn more about United for Wildlife visit: http://www.unitedforwildlife.org/