Fortunately, the world is waking up to this bleak reality, and the travel and tourism business community is taking action. Several companies like JetBlue Airways, Royal Caribbean Ltd., and Carnival Corporation have joined forces with other businesses, non-profits and government agencies to raise awareness about the trafficking crisis and reduce the demand for wildlife products that are fueling the killings through the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance. They are taking steps to educate travelers about how to make smart purchasing choices while on vacation and ensure they are not contributing to the demand for wildlife products and fueling the killing of endangered species.
These remarkable efforts by the travel and tourism industry fall under the umbrella of a wider U.S. response. In 2015, President Obama established a task force to develop and implement a National Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking that seeks to reduce supply, interrupt transport, and eliminate demand for illegal products. Federal agencies have also partnered with African and Asian governments to help reduce demand. As one of the largest markets for illegal wildlife products, the U.S. can – and must – lead the way to reduce the scourge of killing around the world.
JetBlue Airways can be a model to other companies in this industry. In partnership with the Alliance and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, JetBlue has produced a short film that informs travelers of the role they can play in protecting Caribbean wildlife and preserving the region’s ecosystem. The video, which has begun airing on all JetBlue flights, is raising awareness about the illegal trade of the Caribbean’s plants and animals. Often unknowingly, travelers may help fuel the illegal trade of animal species such as sea turtles, coral, and wild birds, which are a big draw for tourism and impact the livelihoods of local residents.
Cruise lines are making commitments as well, and travel industry associations are taking unprecedented steps to ensure their travelers know what to look for and that their staff is prepared to guide customers away from purchases that fuel this trade. Through these kinds of education efforts, we can reduce the demand for products that use endangered wildlife parts, and thereby reduce the poaching of wildlife. This will save their lives and bolster the livelihoods of travel and tourism companies worldwide.
This is an exciting new front in the fight against illegal wildlife trafficking. When travelers know how they can do their part to stem the global demand for illegal wildlife products, we can help save the world’s most iconic species – and help preserve opportunities for future generations to travel and enjoy their grandeur as well.
David Hayes, Chair of the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance and former Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior