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Dubai at heart of countering global animal trafficking, report finds

Dubai at heart of countering global animal trafficking, report finds

Aug 21, 2018

Dubai [UAE] August 21: Border officials seize more but the billion-dollar global trade grows, with China and Thailand topping a USAID list
Border officials in the UAE are seizing more exotic animals in their battle against traffickers using Dubai as a transit point, a new report suggests.
A detailed review focusing on air transport found the UAE had the third-highest number of smuggling cases worldwide between 2009 and last year.
This included seizures of animals and animal products at Dubai airports, or at hauls further down the line, mainly in Asia. Some of those overseas hauls were the result of international efforts involving Dubai Customs and police.
China and Thailand topped the list with the most cases of smuggling in the data released by the US Agency for International Development.
As a key transit route, border authorities in Dubai continue to face a battle to stop the trafficking of illegal animals, particularly of birds.
Kinda Jabi, from the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Dubai, said major transit centres such as Dubai International Airport are popular with smugglers.
"About 90 million passengers pass through Dubai airport every year, so it's expected that wildlife traders would use Dubai as a transit point on their way from Africa to Asia," Ms Jabi said.
The fund has a partnership with Dubai Customs to train inspectors on the best way to tackle and prevent smuggling.
In May, a spokesman for Dubai Customs said officers continued "to raise awareness around the importance of protecting these endangered species and abiding by international agreements and treaties in this field".
Etihad Airways and Emirates have pledged support for anti-trafficking campaigns and sought to highlight the misery the trade brings to animals and the criminal networks it supports.
"More information and intelligence about seizures or possible smuggling attempts needs to be exchanged so authorities can take action," Ms Jabi said.
The new report, called In Plane Sight, found that between 2009 and last year 387 trafficking cases were recorded at airports in China, followed by 150 in Thailand and 117 in the UAE.
The report says Kenya and the UAE are primary transit centres for wildlife moving between and Africa and Asia. Birds were the most commonly seized wildlife contraband, followed by reptiles and then ivory.
But research also suggests the seizures represent only a small portion of the wildlife traffic moving through Dubai.
"Having worked for 13 years on the illegal cheetah trade along with other species, this study confirms my data in that many animals introduced into the Gulf arrive by air," said Patricia Tricorache, of the International Cheetah Conservation Fund.
"Many primates are arriving from Asia, including orangutans, slow loris and gibbons, and then primates from Africa such as chimpanzees, as well as birds and reptiles.
"The Gulf seems to be a favoured transit route for wildlife products but mostly as a final destination for live animals."
Daniel Stiles, an expert in the illegal wildlife trade, has been collecting data on seizures in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and Mozambique for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
"It certainly seems seizures are up, especially of rhino horn, in airports," said Mr Stiles, who is based in Kenya.
"The fact that so many wildlife products get through without being seized indicates either security personnel are not doing their job, or corruption is at work.
"It's known that high-level wildlife traffickers use airlines and airports, where paid facilitators ensure that baggage with illicit products will get through.
"The trend in increased wildlife seizures in airports is a reflection of increased wildlife trafficking and better detection."
Source: The National