Research Projects

Post COVID-19: Airport Efforts to Prevent Wildlife Trafficking

Wildlife Trafficking links wildlife trade and public health; and the COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example of how the transmission of disease that originated in wildlife could have a devastating impact on global public health. Additionally, wildlife trafficking is a serious worldwide crime which threatens security, economic prosperity, the rule of law, and conservation efforts.

Background (Describe the current situation or problem in the industry, and how your idea would address it.)

Wildlife trafficking is one of the 4 top criminal markets, grossing over $26 billion/year. Wildlife are trafficked via air in cargo, in checked baggage, by post/courier, or hidden on a persons' body. The illegal wildlife trade often originates from Asia, Africa, and Europe, arriving the Americas via Los Angeles International Airport, John F Kennedy International Airport, and Benito Juárez Mexico City International Airport. Once entry is made, wildlife trafficking threatens security, economic prosperity, the rule of law, conservation efforts, and allows the transmission of diseases that originated in wildlife.

Serving as the portal of entry, airports must have anti-wildlife trafficking policies and procedures in place. Wildlife trafficking may potentially place the airports' reputation at risk, place the airport legally and economically accountable for not detecting wildlife contraband, and make the airport responsible for the spread of disease to humans from smuggled wildlife.

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, international embargoes and strict importation regulations have halted the potential of wildlife trafficking. However, once the pandemic ends and international air travel returns, this illegal industry is anticipated to return. Thus, a thorough review of airport policies and procedures regarding wildlife trafficking is needed and guidance provided to prevent wildlife trafficking.

Objective (What is the desired product or result that will help the airport industry?)

Through an analysis of wildlife trafficking prevention procedures at airports, the project aims to determine what efforts are in place to prevent wildlife trafficking and whether further actions are needed. The outcome of the project is an analysis of practices used by airports and update guidance on how to mitigate the risks of wildlife trafficking.

Approach (Describe in general terms the steps you think are needed to achieve the objective.)

To determine the present policies and procedures to prevent wildlife trafficking and develop guidance for airport to follow to prevent wildlife trafficking.

Cost Estimate and Backup (Provide a cost estimate and support for how you arrived at the estimate.)


Related Research - List related ACRP and other industry research; describe gaps (see link to Research Roadmaps above), and describe how your idea would address these gaps. This is a critical element of a synthesis topic submission.

The International Air Transportation Association (IATA) is working with the aviation industry to support the work of enforcement agencies in combating the illegal trade in wildlife. During the 2016 Annual General Meeting, IATA unanimously endorsed a resolution denouncing the illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products and pledged to fight against the trafficking of protected species. As a signatory of the Buckingham Palace Declaration, IATA, 61 airlines, and a few aviation stakeholders pledged to reduce the illegal trade of wildlife. Signatories have committed to raise awareness of wildlife trafficking, train staff to help spot traffickers, and improve cooperation between transport bodies and regulatory and enforcement organizations. As of 2016, It does not appear that US airline and aviation stakeholders have made this commitment.

The gaps identified:

1. There are no ACRPs that provides recommendations to addresses wildlife trafficking.

2. Efforts to increase awareness, train staff to help spot traffickers, and improve cooperation between transport bodies and regulatory and enforcement organizations do not exist in the US.


Airline Signatories of the Buckingham Palace Declaration (

Airlines go Wilder (

Guidance on Prohibited Carriage of Wildlife and Related Products by Passengers (



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Idea No. 434