Airlines operating in Africa have been urged to take a leading role in the fight against wildlife trafficking, with claims that some traffickers are exploiting different airlines to transport parts of wild animals globally. Dr. James Musinguzi, the Executive Director of the Uganda Wildlife Education Conservation Center (Uwec), stressed the importance of airlines in curbing the illicit trade, estimated at $2.6 billion.
“The illicit trade in wildlife has grown to an estimated $2.6 billion, and airlines play a vital role in helping the traffickers in transportation. Since we have had a chance of interacting with the CEOs of airlines and other stakeholders, we are rallying them to work with us and end this bad habit,” said Dr. Musinguzi.
He emphasized that airlines can contribute to the solution by raising awareness among communities that purchase wildlife products, disrupting the market for traffickers and thereby curbing illegal hunting of wild animals.
The call to action was made ahead of the 55th African Airlines Association (AFRAA) annual general assembly, which commenced in Munyonyo. During the assembly, aviation sector leaders are expected to discuss various topics, including strategies for profit generation, opening up African airspaces, and promoting greater participation of women in the airline sector.
Highlighting the severity of the issue, a 2011/15 study by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) revealed that approximately 1.6 trillion wild animals are killed every year.
Several airlines have previously committed to reforms aimed at combating wildlife trafficking. In 2019, Turkish Airlines pledged to cease transporting African Grey parrots from Central Africa. Ethiopian Airlines, in August 2021, committed to reviewing wildlife transportation regulations, and in January 2022, Kenya Airways vowed to halt the transportation of monkeys and other wild animals used in scientific research.
As part of their commitment to wildlife conservation, airlines are viewed as key players in promoting tourism, and their collaboration with conservation centers is seen as crucial. The manager of government relations and routes coordination at Uganda Airlines, Mr. Deo Nyanzi, emphasized the airlines’ role in promoting Uganda’s tourism and ensuring the coexistence of wildlife and travel.