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Thursday, January 26, 2023

Wildlife Trafficking Awareness Initiative Launches at Seattle-Tacoma

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Wildlife Trafficking Alliance (WTA), Woodland Park Zoo, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park are partnering to unveil a first-of-its-kind interactive installation to help stop wildlife trafficking. 

Arriving just in time for the summer travel season, recovery of international travel, and the opening of the airport’s new International Arrivals Facility, the educational display empowers international travelers to prevent wildlife trafficking in how they shop, eat and experience while abroad. Located across from Gate S1, the display is in the S Concourse, SEA’s hub for departing international flights.

The installation invites travelers to be good stewards of global animal populations and follow the law with a pledge to be a “savvy traveler” who makes choices that help save endangered animals around the world. The contents of the display share examples of confiscated illegally trafficked materials and information about how animal species are in decline due to illegal wildlife trade. It also shares the positive impacts of conservation and educational efforts. The wildlife artifacts were selected to highlight the diversity of items that travelers may encounter. Some wildlife items were paired with sustainable look-alikes to highlight the existence of legal alternatives and the challenges of identifying wildlife products without knowing the right questions to ask.

“The illegal wildlife trade is estimated to generate $20 billion USD annually in illegal proceeds,” said University of Washington Center for Environmental Forensic Science Co-Executive Director and Professor of Biology Dr. Sam Wasser. “The illegal ivory trade is estimated to generate $4 billion annually. Most of the smuggled ivory consists of whole, unworked tusks. The tusks are bought and stockpiled by investors who appear to be banking on elephants going extinct so that ivory can once again be legally sold. While law enforcement plays a critical role in stopping illegal trade, the ease with which large volumes of ivory can be moved across the world makes it unlikely that law enforcement can stop the trade on its own. The only sustainable solution is to permanently eliminate demand. Please help us achieve that goal.”

The installation at SEA is a pilot project for AZA’s Wildlife Trafficking Alliance, which will be followed by two additional exhibits in 2022 at key U.S. airports. Pending project evaluation, WTA will seek additional exhibits in subsequent years in the U.S., and beyond.

Additional partners supporting the SEA installation include the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the University of Washington Center for Environmental Forensic Science. 

Read more at the Port of Seattle

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