World Wildlife Day: The time for action is now!

04.03.2019 - March 3 is World Wildlife Day and animals are facing extinction due to the ravages of wildlife trafficking, which is relentlessly destroying biodiversity on this planet. The pangolin, often called the scaly anteater, now holds the tragic title of most trafficked mammal in the world with authorities seizing tons of the animal’s scales in some parts of Asia.

A live cobra found in an inspected parcel.

The problem does not end with the pangolin. Tens of thousands of elephants are slaughtered annually, the sub-Saharan black rhino has declined by more than 90 percent since the 1970s, and it is estimated that there are only between 3,000-4,000 tigers left in the wild. 

These rare animals are often trafficked along routes crossing customs borders and postal networks. The Universal Postal Union’s Security Programme Manager, Dawn Wilkes, is well versed in how traffickers use the postal system. She gives the example of a dangerous snake hidden in a small tin can, placed in a parcel and then shipped to the United States.   

Wilkes believes that education is essential for tackling wildlife trafficking. “We need to be very vocal in saying exactly why these incredible animals need our protection, but also to reinforce security. Some of the live animals trafficked, snakes for instance, are a danger to the public, and to the postal employees handling the packages,” she says.

Cooperation at the international level is also essential to prevent wildlife trafficking. Wilkes says that, while Customs is on the front line of this global problem, Posts and airlines also need to coordinate action, and share experiences and best practices.

“At the international level tackling wildlife trafficking is about building connectivity among the various actors, including the World Customs Organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization and many others,” she adds.

The UPU Security Manager notes that much of her time is spent liaising at the international level and ensuring that everyone appreciates the scale and the scope of the problem. Wilkes notes that she is well suited to this role due to her previous work experience.

Before joining UPU, Wilkes was part of the United States Postal Inspection Service’s global security group based in San Francisco. She says the office worked extremely closely with the US department of wildlife and fisheries to coordinate activities and open suspect parcels.

Asked why she became a security expert, Wilkes says, “I wanted to make an impact, I wanted to bring beneficial change and to help people. I did that at USPS in a small team and now I have the privilege of doing this at the global level with UPU.”

Environment, Postal security
 

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  1. Dirk at 19.01.2016
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