On February 20 and 21, flight attendants and cargo and baggage handlers from Delta Airlines and Kenya Airlines joined airport security and customs officials to learn how today’s traffickers are attempting to circumvent inspectors to smuggle rare and endangered wildlife through airports around the world.  

Together with Royal Thai Customs, Airports of Thailand, and the airlines, Freeland Foundation, a Bangkok-based counter-trafficking organization, launched the Wildlife Friendly Skies training course as part of the USAID-funded Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking (ARREST) program.

The course took place at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport, a recognized hotspot for wildlife trafficking and major regional transport hub serving more than 52 million passengers in 2012. The new airline partnership, brokered jointly with the U.S. Embassy Bangkok, highlights the importance of public and private sector collaboration to combat illicit trade.  The illicit trade endangered species trade is estimated at $19 billion per year.

Run by organized criminal syndicates, wildlife trafficking is rapidly depleting the world’s biodiversity. Traffickers commonly use airlines to smuggle endangered and threatened species such as birds, primates, and turtles.  The Wildlife Friendly Skies training course will be expanded and tailored to specific airports and airlines to ensure relevant staff are equipped to help end wildlife trafficking.

Source: USAID/RDMA Regional Environment Office Weekly Update