Airlines have signed a declaration to support efforts to stop the illegal trafficking of wildlife in an initiative backed by members of the Royal family.

The declaration has been signed by 40 companies and organisations, including IATA, the African Airlines Association, individual airlines, shipping firms, port operators, and customs agencies.

Representatives from the aviation industry were invited to Buckingham Palace to pledge their support for the United for Wildlife campaign, created by the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

“I can think of few other causes that galvanize more interest and support across the global transport and logistics sectors than the challenge of wildlife trafficking, said Tony Tyler, IATA’s director general and CEO.

IATA said the air transport network is being exploited by criminal gangs to smuggle animals or their products.

Under the initiative, airlines have agreed to improve staff training to recognise and report suspicious packages and behaviour.

“The initial focus of action will be on the trafficking of high-risk protected animals, specifically certain big cats, pangolins, and ivory products, on high-risk routes, particularly originating from or transiting through East Africa,” it said.

Unveiling the campaign, Prince William said: “If we allow current trends to continue, there will be no African elephants or rhinos left in the wild by the time my daughter Charlotte reaches her 25th birthday.

“But this crisis can be stopped. We know where the animals are that we need to protect. We know where the markets for wildlife products are and where awareness, education, and law enforcement need to be improved.”

Tyler added: “In the 1990s the industry came together to address noise. More recently we joined forces to manage our impact on climate change, committing as an industry to carbon-neutral growth from 2020 and to cut net emissions to half the 2005 levels by 2050.

“We now extend that commitment to playing an active role in reducing illegal trafficking of wildlife. We will collaborate in support of government enforcement authorities to put an end to this evil trade.”

New guidance material for airlines has been published, and an IATA Environment Committee Wildlife Taskforce has been set up to monitor progress and provide advice on the next steps. (Source TravelMole)