Industry bodies clamp down on illegal wildlife trafficking in global supply chains


Ten international organisations have produced guidelines to help identify criminal wildlife trade, and report suspicious activities.

Industry bodies clamp down on illegal wildlife trafficking in global supply chains
Foreman controls container loading/Illustration

Ten international organisations have joined the initiative launched by the World Shipping Council aimed at fighting illegal wildlife trafficking.

Maritime traffic remains particularly vulnerable to the trafficking of illegal goods.

“With the vast volume of trade carried by sea, the demand for faster, just-in-time deliveries, and the increasing complexity of intermodal supply chains, criminals increasingly exploit weaknesses in global maritime supply chains to traffic contraband items,” WSC said.

WSC with support from the United Nations Development Program, the Global Environment Facility, and the Global Wildlife Program, in collaboration with TRAFFIC and WWF, and co-sponsored by BIC, Global Shippers Forum, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and TT Club have produced practical guidelines for all supply chain participants, with advice on measures to take, questions to ask to help identify criminal wildlife trade, and guidance on reporting suspicious activities.

The Joint Industry Guidelines for Combatting Illegal Wildlife Trafficking are designed to support and promote existing International Maritime Organization (IMO) guidelines by providing specific and actionable guidance to private sector stakeholders. The joint industry guidelines have been submitted to the IMO for additional awareness and action. The guidelines are supported by a “Red Flags” document, which serves as a daily reference for all individuals involved in the supply chain.

Mis- and non-declaration of wildlife as well as their concealment in shipments is common. Parties in the containerised supply chains are therefore encouraged to establish appropriate procedures to identify and combat such illicit trade, including the use of screening practices and automated tools to detect illegal wildlife shipments.

Whenever wildlife products are detected in a shipment, the species should be checked against the Appendices to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to determine their protected status and whether trade is permissible. A dedicated Checklist of CITES Species allows the exploration of more than 36,000 species of animals and plants and their degree of protection. Each shipment of wildlife should be accompanied by valid documentation, including where applicable, a CITES permit.

The sealing of containers and maintaining seal integrity have been identified as crucial elements of a secure supply chain. All containers must be secured immediately after packing by the responsible party (i.e., the shipper or packer acting on the shipper’s behalf) with a high-security seal that meets or exceeds the most current International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 17712 standard for high-security seals. Equivalent electronic devices may be used.

Throughout transit, it should be verified that the seal is intact with no signs of tampering, and that the seal number matches the number noted on the shipping documents.

Finally, the company’s human resource force is one of its most critical assets, but it may also be one of its weakest links. Many compromises of container integrity are caused where one or more of the workforce are corrupted or forced to collude with criminal parties to infiltrate and exploit the supply chain, the guidelines said.

Because of the size and weight of wildlife shipments, such exploitation is most prevalent at the packing and consolidation location. The guidelines indicate that companies should therefore exercise due diligence to verify on initial engagement and periodically thereafter that employees filling sensitive positions are reliable and trustworthy. Sensitive positions include staff working directly with cargo or its documentation, as well as personnel involved in controlling access to sensitive areas or equipment.

“We recognize the critical role that the maritime industry plays in combatting illegal wildlife trafficking. By working together to increase awareness across the supply chain of how to spot and address this criminal activity, we can prevent the exploitation of global maritime supply chains for criminal activities and protect endangered species worldwide,” John Butler, President & CEO of the World Shipping Council, said.

“The illegal trade of wildlife across our oceans is immense, overlooked, and often under-reported. Given its scale and vulnerability, it is critical that maritime traffic be central to our collective efforts to mitigate the illegal trade in wildlife. The creation of these guidelines is a fundamental first step in shining a spotlight on this part of the supply chain, giving us the building blocks for a solution which positively impacts animals across the globe. When we protect biodiversity, we protect ourselves, and today, we are one step closer to making this a reality,” Azzedine Downes, President and CEO of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), added.

“It’s estimated that 72-90% of illegally trafficked wildlife, including live animals, animal products, plants, and timber, is smuggled via the shipping industry, so the sector holds a responsibility to rise against transnational organised crime. By taking action with these resources, the sector will have far-reaching positive impacts for conversation and biodiversity growth at the same time as protecting livelihoods of local communities,“ Philippa Dyson, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Manager at TRAFFIC, said.

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