Dubai: In 2015, the UAE and Dubai officials helped lead the growing global fight against illegal wildlife traffickers thanks to a slew of new government and corporate measures.
New efforts introduced this year will go a long way to stem the flow of ivory smugglers transiting from Africa through Dubai International Airport to the Far East where demand feeds supply, said officials.
“It is important to keep fighting to stop the killing of endangered animals,” said Dr Elsayed Ahmad A. Mohammad, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa, of International Federation of Animal Welfare (IFAW).
Mohammad told Gulf News that Dubai enjoyed a banner year in the fight against illegal wildlife trade by adopting meaningful agreements and practices that are making a major dent in smuggling revenues.
“Illegal trade is one of the major threats to many species; once we lose them, many will never come back,” said Mohammad, who helps oversee IFAW’s Middle East office in Dubai.
Some experts speculate poachers have slaughtered 30 per cent of the last remaining African elephant population in the last three years, slashing herd populations to slightly above 400,000. At an annual 10 per cent poaching rate, what’s left of wild elephants in Africa could be decimated in as little as 10 years.
Drop in seizures
Saeed Ahmad Al Tayer, Executive Director of Policies and Legislation Division at Dubai Customs, confirmed earlier that illegal ivory shipment seizures dropped markedly this year due to tighter enforcement.
“This somehow indicates that the smugglers are trying to find another route for their illicit ivory trade due to the high alertness and joint determination of Customs and all concerned authorities to crack down on the wildlife crime,” he told Gulf News.
Earlier this month in London, global marine terminal operator DP World, alongside members of United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce, agreed to a new blueprint for tackling transport of illegal wildlife products.
A signatory to 11 global commitments, DP World said it will work with other transport firms and legal authorities by sharing information and detection and cracking down on questionable shipments.
Sultan Ahmad Bin Sulayem, Chairman of DP World, said, “We all need to work together to tackle the issue and only by partnership can we succeed for the long term. Promoting greater awareness and vigilance within the maritime sector, port operators, Customs organisations, customers and suppliers, encouraging greater cooperation is key. We owe it to the world, our partners, our communities and to the magnificent wildlife that shares this planet with us.”
Taskforce members toured DP World facilities in Jebel Ali Port in October and met with Dubai Customs and DP World management to discuss working together at the ninth largest port in the world.
Emirates airline also joined the United for Wildlife efforts in November by plastering wildlife images on two of its A380 Airbuses to promote awareness of the issue in concert with increased training of its staff to “better equip its ground and cargo staff to detect and deal with illegal wildlife products in transit. As the required paperwork for movement of some wildlife products is often forged, Emirates also made the decision to ban trophy shipments,” the company said.
Tim Clark, President Emirates Airline said in a statement: “Many animals, in particular African elephants, rhinos, tigers, and pangolins, are under extreme pressure because of an unprecedented spike in the illegal wildlife trade. The world is in a global poaching crisis, and everyone has to do their part to stop this, before it is too late. Emirates believes that the global transport industry, including airlines, can play a significant role to break the supply chain of illegal wildlife trade. And at Emirates, we are committing the resources to do our part.”
Government officials in UAE also clamped down on illegal wildlife trade as evidenced by its crushing in April of 10 tonnes of ivory.
Rashid Ahmad Bin Fahd, Minister of Environment and Water, told Gulf News at the ivory crushing event that “the value of a live elephant is higher than the worth of all the ivory that we see today”.
Bin Fahd pledged that “the UAE will do its utmost to prevent and stop such illegal trade and the harm done to elephants”.
The 10 tonnes of ivory pieces that Dubai crushed were — before their destruction — fashioned into smaller round shapes that could have been en route to the Far East to be later fashioned into intricate official stamps for businesses or family crests used to verify documents.
Factbox: London Declaration
In February 2014, the UAE joined 45 other countries in signing the London Declaration to eliminate illegal trade of wildlife. The resolution focuses on obligations and measures required to put an end to the illegal trade of wild animals, including rhinoceros, tigers and elephants. The value of these illicit activities exceed $19 billion (Dh70 billion) annually.
The London Declaration seeks to end demand for wildlife products, strengthen law enforcement and develop sustainable livelihoods for affected communities.