Countering wildlife trafficking in Africa: Interview with Claire Beastall

Guest Author by Guest Author | Jan 28, 2020

This year, as part of the 28th ACI Africa Annual General Assembly & Regional Conference and Exhibition in Accra, Ghana, USAID’s Reducing Opportunities for Unlawful Transport of Endangered Species (ROUTES) partners conducted a workshop and training sessions on wildlife trafficking for ACI African membership. As the objective lead for ROUTES partnership on capacity building and training, this was an opportunity for Claire Beastall, Training and Capacity Building Coordinator, TRAFFIC to work hands-on with ACI Africa members and other stakeholders on the issue of wildlife trafficking and its impact in Africa. Claire shared her view on major issues surrounding wildlife trafficking and how the ROUTES partnership will help equip airports with the proper tools in order to disrupt illegal wildlife trafficking in the future.

Q: How would you define wildlife trafficking?

Wildlife trafficking is the illegal trade of wild animals and plants in contravention of national laws and international regulations. This involves wild animals or plants which are living or dead, traded as parts or the items made from them. 

Q: Why has wildlife trafficking become such an issue in the aviation sector and for ACI?

Wildlife traffickers generally make use of legal supply chains to transport their products and we know that aviation transport is a common way for them to move their goods from source to market. ACI represents 95% of the world’s airports and plays a very important role in the combat against wildlife trafficking to engage and raise awareness of their membership. Traffickers exploit gaps in the aviation supply chain jeopardizing the integrity of these systems. The ROUTES Partnership has helped to raise awareness of this issue by gathering data to show how illegal wildlife trade is impacting the aviation community and showing what steps can be taken to address this illicit trade.

Q: Why is it important to spread awareness on wildlife trafficking?

Wildlife trafficking affects some of the world’s best-known species, such as rhinos which are killed for their horn and elephants poached for ivory, along with some less familiar animals including parrots.  Wildlife trafficking is pushing some species towards extinction. The value of the illegal wildlife trade is estimated between 7 and 23 billion US dollars each year, making it the world’s fourth largest international crime. Wildlife trafficking robs communities of their natural resources and potential benefits from tourism. It threatens national security and stability and can have an impact on global health through the spread of diseases. The trafficking of wildlife fuels corruption and is known to be linked to organized crime groups.

Q: What are you doing to raise awareness?

I am part of the ROUTES Partnership which has brought together a range of major stakeholders including transport and logistics companies, government agencies, development groups, law enforcement, and conservation organizations to raise awareness of this issue, and support the private sector in removing wildlife trafficking from their supply chains.

Q: What did participants learn during the workshop?

The ROUTES Partnership has been able to shed light on the illegal wildlife trade in the aviation supply chain with a focus on activities happening in Africa, where it is happening and how. We provided participants with case studies on how ACI member airports have taken action to combat wildlife trafficking in their airports and we presented information on some of the more commonly trafficked types of wildlife in the African region, focusing on a few specific airports which are used for the export, transit, and import of illegally traded wildlife.

ROUTES Partners with the Ghanaian Minister of Transport in Accra, Ghana

Q: What was your favourite part about the ACI-Africa conference and this workshop specifically?

I have attended previous ACI events in Mauritius, Miami, and Hong Kong. I know that many of ACI Africa members are aware of wildlife trafficking and the impacts that it can have. This year’s conference has given me the opportunity to increase engagement on the issue of wildlife trafficking in the aviation sector. The level of knowledge is growing, and it is a pleasure to be able to meet familiar faces to continue the discussion and begin conservations with new airports on how they can help to combat these activities. The workshop provided a fantastic opportunity to once again see the level of commitment by ACI, Civil Aviation Authorities, and other partners under one cause. ACI is providing leadership on issues important to the airport community.  Wildlife trafficking is a global issue that is particularly relevant in Africa.     

ROUTES Partnership booth in Accra, Ghana

Q: How will the ROUTES Partnership benefit ACI members in the future?

ACI will be producing a Handbook on wildlife trafficking which will also include case studies from member airports. This handbook will be a practical guide for all ACI members as they move to combat wildlife trafficking in their airports and include policies and initiatives that can be applied within any airport. We will also be developing a range of resources specifically for airports including training videos and an e-learning module to help train airport staff to recognize suspected wildlife trafficking and show them how this should be reported. These will help to increase awareness, engagement, and vigilance across the entire airport system.  

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Originally from the UK, Claire has been based in Southeast Asia since 1996. She holds degrees in zoology and captive vertebrate management. Over the last decade, she has been working at TRAFFIC (the wildlife trade monitoring network) in Southeast Asia. Through the ROUTES Partnership, Claire has led sessions specifically on wildlife trafficking by air for the aviation sector in Asia, Africa and the Americas.

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