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DOHA: October 18, 2017. Qatar Airways has joined Airlines for America, Delta, Emirates, IATA, Kenya Airways and United in the USAID Reducing Opportunities for Unlawful Transport of Endangered Species (ROUTES) partnership.

In addition to airlines, ROUTES brings together international conservation organizations, donors and the U.S. government in a bid to disrupt the US$20 billion a year trafficking of 7,000 species of animals and plants.

According to a 2017 ROUTES report, 114 countries have recorded cases of wildlife trafficking at their airports in the past decade. The top five locations for trafficking of ivory, rhino horn, live birds and live reptiles (which collectively make up about two-thirds of all trafficked wildlife) are China, Thailand, UAE, Kenya and India.

elephantThe report discovered that nearly 50 percent of all smuggling attempts are via checked baggage, five percent as hand luggage and 14 percent as airfreight. This week security officials at Lahore airport, Pakistan arrested a man attempting to smuggle five falcons worth nearly US$50,000 on a flight to Qatar.

Last November IATA launched an Airport Wildlife Trafficking Assessment tool to help defeat smugglers of endangered species following the United for Wildlife Buckingham Palace Declaration by 40 major logistics organizations, NGOs, U.N. and government agencies to collaborate against the illegal trade.

The members, including Qatar Airways, have committed to receive and exchange credible information about high-risk routes and methods of transportation; to develop a secure system for passing information about suspected illegal wildlife trade from the transport sector to relevant Customs and law enforcement; and to notify relevant authorities of cargoes suspected of containing illegal wildlife and their products and, where able, refuse to accept or ship such cargoes.

ROUTES chair Michelle Owen commented: "We are thrilled that Qatar Airways is taking an increased leadership role against wildlife trafficking within the aviation sector. [The] ROUTES partnership is strengthened by the knowledge and motivation that members like Qatar Airways contribute."

Qatar Airways noted criminal organizations involved in wildlife trafficking are also connected to trafficking narcotics, arms and people: "We have a prominent position in establishing industry solutions to global threats, such as the illegal transportation of endangered wildlife," said Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker.

"Qatar Airways is proud to stand with other aviation industry leaders to state that we have zero tolerance for this criminal activity. As a result, we have devoted resources to raise awareness to not only eliminate wildlife trafficking, but to protect these creatures that we value," he added.

In June this year 12 more airlines signed the Buckingham Palace Declaration: TAP, Lao Airlines State Enterprise, China Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Aerovías de Mexico, Air Transat, Malaysia Airlines, Royal Brunei Airlines, KLM, Air France and EgyptAir.

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