World Animal Production has investigated the aviation industry’s role in wildlife transportation in West Africa. We discovered Ethiopian Airlines, the largest aviation group on the continent, is a major culprit for the commercial shipping of live wild animals around the world for luxury use as exotic pets.
Our team reviewed social media activity to demonstrate how airlines are fuelling wildlife trade - enabling the international transport of wild animals to meet the global demand for exotic pets.
Africa’s wildlife, such as African civet, African spurred tortoise, African Ball python, Bush babies and Rhinoceros viper among many others, are being exploited and large swathes of animals are depleting at a concerning rate.
This is all being driven by international consumers demand for luxury goods, with the reckless exotic pet trade being a major contributor. Wild animals are the victims, suffering unthinkable cruelty in the process.
Animal suffering at every stage
Many of the animals being transported are threatened with extinction or have unknown or declining wild population trends. They will suffer during capture and are kept in cruel conditions, which can leave them stressed and vulnerable to infection or even death.
Not only is the global wildlife trade considered to be one of the leading causes of ecosystem collapse and biodiversity loss globally, but exploitation of wildlife also poses huge biosecurity risks. More than 70% of zoonotic emerging infectious diseases are thought to originate from wild animals, with poor welfare conditions and proximity to people creating the ideal situation for viruses to mutate and spill over to humans.
Our report provides the most detailed insight to date into the diversity and global extent of wildlife trade originating from West Africa, a recognised trade hub and major exporter. It reveals:
Edith Kabesiime, Wildlife Campaigns Manager, World Animal Protection, said:
While the world still grapples with the pandemic, it’s important to remember how it’s believed to have all started – the wildlife trade. People continue to be subjected to travel restrictions to stop the spread of disease, so it’s shocking to know that wild animals of high biosecurity risk are being flown around the world, going under the radar. We could have a trojan horse situation as wild animals are known to pose disease risks.
Ethiopian Airlines has an important role in connecting Africa to the world. They are importing lifesaving Covid-19 vaccines, but at the same time, by exporting live wild animals, they could be transporting dangerous pathogens around the world. The airline has a responsibility to safeguard against future pandemics and protect the continent's incredible wildlife.
World Animal Protection is urgently calling on Ethiopian Airlines and other airlines to help restrict trade, with immediate action on species that are high biosecurity risks.
Airlines must transition away from all transportation of wildlife for commercial exploitation as luxury exotic pets and stop transporting wildlife in their fleets – to leave wild animals in the wild, where they belong.
Every day, thousands of wild animals are poached or farmed and sold into the global multi-billion-dollar wildlife trade – for food, for pets, for traditional medicine and for entertainment, causing immense suffering and putting us all risk. This is why we are calling for an end to the global wildlife trade. Forever.