Fighting back against illegal wildlife trafficking

Rhino in long grass at sunriseAs London hosts a global conference on combating the illegal wildlife trade, Katherine Rolfe explains what can be done to help save some of the world’s most threatened species.

The international trade in illegal wildlife is alive throughout the world and continues to drive many precious species to the brink of extinction. One of the most shocking threats is the illegal trade of ivory, which sees 20,000 elephants killed each year.

Another sad truth is that we are still witnessing the poaching of rhinos – around three every day. In a generation’s time, elephants and rhinos may not be living in the wild.

It is not just animals at risk. The lives of rangers are also under attack whilst protecting endangered animals from poachers. And it is a little-known fact that plants are the most traded kind of wildlife globally.

Smugglers and criminals exploit the international aviation network to move illegal wildlife products around the world.  As with many hub airports, Heathrow is known to be a link in the global trade routes used to smuggle illegal wildlife goods. So what are we doing about it?

We are taking action to help curb illegal trade in endangered species in two main ways.

1. Helping to stop the demand

Some 78 million passengers fly through Heathrow every year. This gives us a huge opportunity to increase awareness of the impact of illegal wildlife trafficking, and to help people understand if they have unknowingly bought illegal wildlife products.

This week, the UK Government has been hosting the fourth international conference on illegal wildlife trafficking in London (for the latest updates look for the hashtag #endwildlifecrime).

We are showing our support by promoting the UN’s Wild For Life Campaign. And you can help too. Take the Wild For Life quiz to find out which endangered species is your kindred spirit, and spread the word on social media.

2. Disrupting the illegal wildlife trade

Mother elephant with small calf

We’re working together with Border Force, airlines and cargo handlers to increase the detection of illegal wildlife products and disrupt the illegal trafficking of wildlife through Heathrow.

In 2016, Heathrow signed up to the United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce Buckingham Palace Declaration, led by the Duke of Cambridge. The declaration includes 11 commitments to combat the illegal wildlife trade across the transport sector.

We will continue to work with our business partners at Heathrow to help achieve our goal — for no illegal wildlife or animal products to pass through Heathrow.

Katherine Rolfe is Sustainability Strategy Manager at Heathrow.

Wild For Life at Heathrow

All terminals, 7th to 16th October

Boy in tiger face paint

Heathrow is proud to support the Wild for Life campaign to stamp out illegal wildlife trafficking for good. In World Duty Free, pick up a soft toy in support of WWF, the Worldwide Fund for Nature — profits will go to WWF to help protect endangered species around the globe.

We also have a face painter in Terminal 5 on Friday 12th October, from 10:00 to 16:00, so if you’ll be travelling through, why not take the opportunity to discover your inner animal?