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How logistics combat illegal wildlife trade

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Our planet's biodiversity is responsible for clean air, water, healthy soil, crops, and stable weather. However, this biodiversity is threatened due to an imbalance in our ecosystems caused by the extinction of various animal and plant species. This poses a direct threat to the lives of humans.

Many wildlife species have been used for food, energy, and as cures for various diseases throughout human history. However, as illegal wildlife trafficking accelerates worldwide, these species are at risk of extinction, threatening to collapse our ecosystem and cause devastating effects.

This article will highlight the detrimental impact of illegal wildlife trade,  the role of the logistics industry and the measures it can put in place to combat it. 

What is illegal wildlife trade?

Illegal wildlife trade denotes the unlawful killing of various animals and plants and selling products derived from them. The value of illicit forms of plant and animal trafficking is estimated to be between US$7 to US$23 billion every year, reports the International Air Transport Association (IATA). After human, drug, and arms trafficking, it is the most profitable type of illegal trade. 

Illegal wildlife trade is driven largely by its demand, which includes the following:

  • Certain rare animals are kept as pets by wealthy individuals. These include Asian otters, squirrel monkeys, and African grey parrots. 

  • In some countries, rare animal meat is considered a delicacy, causing people to spend extravagantly on them. Examples include shark fins and pangolin meat.

  • Luxury goods such as leather, rugs, shoes, and bags are produced using the skin of rare animals, such as crocodiles, tigers, and giraffes. 

  • Many decorative and ornamental items are manufactured using elephant tusks and rhinoceros horns. 

  • Certain animal body parts are used to create traditional Asian medicines, which remain high in demand.

  • Rare timber is used to create luxury furniture, often associated with an individual’s status.

Illegal wildlife trade: key statistics

Illegal wildlife trafficking is a global crisis which risks the extinction of hundreds of species. For example, the remaining five species of rhinoceroses face rampant killing. In Africa, at least 1,305 rhinos were killed by poachers in 2015, the Conservation International reveals. According to a United Nations report, seizures of pangolin scales increased tenfold between 2014 and 2018. The same report shows that tiger poaching and trafficking networks span traders from China, Vietnam, India, and Indonesia, who sell their products to medicinal industries in China and Thailand.

New Zealand, home to various native animals and rare species, is an attractive target for traffickers. The International Fund for Animal Welfare also noted that the number of illegal wildlife trade seizures in New Zealand was almost twice the number of similar seizures in the UK and nearly ten times in Australia.

The role of logistics in illegal wildlife trade

Whether wildlife trade is undertaken legally or illegally, moving these products requires logistics firms. Prior to the IATA’s implementation of the ROUTES initiative, little information existed on how wildlife traffickers would use legal air transport means to carry out their operations. However following the implementation of ROUTES, the IATA has recognised the role that logistics and supply chain companies, alongside air transport staff, play in identifying and reporting suspicions of wildlife trafficking.

As most of this trading activity occurs across borders through logistics carriers, logistics companies are responsible for ensuring that they do not unknowingly become accomplices to this illegal trade of wildlife and facilitate the continued survival of this industry. 

What logistics companies can do to combat illegal wildlife trade

Since logistics firms play a key role in the movement of wildlife trade, there are several ways they can combat it. DHL Express employs the following strategies to play an active role in combating this trend:

  • Logistics personnel must be educated about the dangers of trading wildlife illegally and the devastating effects of this industry on various species, ecosystems, and the planet as a whole. DHL Express educates its personnel with the help of TRAFFIC – a non-governmental organisation that aims to stop the illegal trade of wildlife globally – to identify and detect packages that may contain illegally trafficked products such as horns, tusks, bones, etc.

  • Logistics companies can also adopt strict recruitment policies to ensure that smugglers are not allowed access to the company’s resources. DHL Express abides by an agreement with other logistics carriers in China, according to which companies may refuse to carry shipments suspected of being involved in illicit trade.

  • Further, logistics companies can combat illegal trade by taking immediate and strict measures when animal or plant trafficking is suspected. DHL Express regularly updates its standard operating procedures, which guide its personnel on how to ensure the lawful movement of goods. These procedures also inform employees on how they may report instances of violation to the relevant authorities.

You can play your part with us when you create a DHL Express business account today!