In September, customs authorities at Cairo International Airport seized 17 endangered falcons. The following month, a man was caught smuggling a cobra in his hand luggage on a flight from Cairo to Kuwait, forcing an emergency landing. And most recently, in January, customs authorities confiscated two shipments of ivory at the airport.
These latest confiscations are a smaller piece of a much larger, problematic picture: the increased demand for “exotic” wildlife in Egypt, and around the world, is fueling the illicit trade of wildlife.
In recent years, the world has witnessed a dramatic spike in the illegal trade of wildlife. It is an incredibly lucrative business, worth an estimated US$19 billion, on a scale comparable to drug trafficking, arms trafficking and human trafficking, yet it receives a fraction of the attention.
CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, is tasked with setting the global controls for trade of endangered wildlife and wildlife parts. Countries that ratify the treaty are then responsible for monitoring and enforcing its regulations. With 178 member states, CITES is the largest international conservation treaty in the world.
Egypt has been a signatory to CITES since 1978, but its long track record of flagrant violations leaves little room to deny that Egypt has played, and continues to play, a complicit role in this growing illegal trade.
Kira Walker / Egypt independent