HE Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Chairman of DP World, shares his thoughts on why business needs to unite to tackle the international problem of illegal poaching and trafficking.
Many of the world’s wildlife species are in crisis. Whole species are being hunted to extinction by sophisticated, illegal poaching and trafficking programmes, and many of our most iconic animals are under threat.
The numbers affected are devastating – between 35,000 and 50,000 African Elephants are poached a year, there are now just 3,000 tigers left in the wild and 95% of the world’s rhinos have been wiped out. Together, the illegal wildlife trade is worth around US$ 19 billion, benefiting organised criminals and armed gangs.
The scale of the challenge requires a joined up, global effort and has led to the establishment of ‘United for Wildlife’. It was convened by HRH The Duke of Cambridge and represents an unprecedented collaboration, bringing together the world’s leading wildlife organisations under a common purpose: to create a global movement to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.
However, these organisations cannot stem the illegal flow on their own – the task requires the support afforded by the international reach, infrastructure and efforts of business. This is why United for Wildlife has created a ‘Taskforce on the Transportation of Illegal Wildlife Products’ and DP World is immensely proud to be playing an active role, joining other businesses committed to promoting ‘zero tolerance of transport of illegal wildlife parts across borders’.
Ports are gateways to world trade and as pillars of economies they play a vital role in enabling commerce to thrive for the benefit of all. Yet traffickers in illegal wildlife products can also use transport connectivity to profit from their activity. And as a global ports operator, we have an important role to play, in partnership with customs authorities.
In October, we hosted a meeting of the Taskforce in Dubai and provided a tour of our flagship Jebel Ali Port. The meeting followed continuous work by Dubai Customs, in collaboration with DP World, to tackle the trade. Between 2012 and 2014, Dubai Customs seized, destroyed and repatriated over 775 pieces of ivory, worth over $10 million dollars.
Since that meeting, further insights on the workings of Dubai Customs have been given, providing a detailed insight into security measures and monitoring in a bid to share and implement this best practice globally. And in December, a major step forward took place when members of the Taskforce met in London and agreed in principle to 11 global commitments that will shape our efforts for the future.
The commitments cover a raft of issues, from awareness, information sharing and detection, practical measures to stop the transportation of illegal wildlife products and a common determination to tackle the illegal trade, wherever it may be. They will be formally signed in March, when we will also announce a number of initiatives to use the strength of our workforce to tackle them.
These are ‘commitments’ in every sense of the word – something we take seriously, something we will endeavour to implement. That’s why we have already written to our customers, our industry colleagues and our employees around the world to share news of this programme and encourage full participation.
Promoting greater awareness and vigilance is key, and businesses are uniquely connected and have the unique benefit of numbers to help deliver this change. Every one of our family of 36,000 people can contribute and make an impact. We are raising awareness of the need to act from the head office through to the quayside.
Private sector businesses throughout the entire supply chain may be drawn into illegal wildlife trade, even unwittingly. We want to work with them to declare and implement, where not already in place, a “zero tolerance” policy and to ensure preventive efforts and transparency. Only by working in partnership can we all succeed – together, we can break the chain between suppliers and consumers of illegal wildlife products.
Our commitments through our Taskforce membership build on the strong environmental commitments we already take as a business – we recognise the need to protect the natural world around us, to ensure we remain a robust business for the long term. Ensuring we have industry leading environmental policies and practices is part of our commitment to protecting and supporting the communities in which we do business.
Today, more than ever, businesses need to support the sustainability of future global generations. Businesses are uniquely placed to ensure we live in a world that enables everyone to live healthy, happy lives and where our magnificent wildlife is able to thrive. We hope other businesses will join us in making this a reality.