New leader in battle against illegal wildlife trade

Linden Coppell, formerly of Cathay Pacific, heads global body’s task force

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 November, 2016, 7:52pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 November, 2016, 10:36pm

The former head of environment for Cathay Pacific Airways will head a new task force on tackling wildlife trade issues for a global airlines body.

The Wildlife Taskforce, one of a few under the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) environment committee, will aim to strengthen “capacity building” in the industry by improving information sharing, staff training, passenger awareness and engagement with authorities.

Linden Coppell, now head of sustainability at Etihad Airways, said the group’s inception “reflect[s] the level of importance of this issue” to the industry. “One important thing is to make sure we are all doing the same thing, saying the same thing,” she said.

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Coppell, who helped Cathay Pacific publish its first corporate social responsibility report in 2007, said priorities were still being hammered out but that “increasing passenger, customer and employee awareness about the nature, scale and consequences of the illegal wildlife trade” fell within the group’s scope.

She said the job would involve helping the IATA develop training materials for airline staff as well as information for passengers. “The other area is making sure we can look at effective ways to engage with our enforcement agencies,” she said. “What can we do to identify suspicions? How do we respond and how do we report them? Where can we get the right information on where the high-risk routes are?”

Coppell said sharing information between airlines and police on which routes were high-risk or being used by smugglers would help strengthen reporting.

At the IATA annual general meeting in June airlines unanimously voted to denounce the illegal wildlife trade, and pledged to work with governments and conservation groups to fight it.

That led to the new task force, which comes as illegal wildlife smugglers increasingly use air transport as an alternative to the traditional sea route.

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Another IATA task force monitors carbon emissions and ensures airlines progress towards 2020 carbon-neutral targets set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the UN body representing international civil aviation authorities.

To meet the targets, Coppell said, airlines would have to use more alternative fuels. “Biofuels have got to be part of the solution,” she said. Etihad is trying out a fuel made from seed oils of halophyte – saltwater-tolerant plants.

“There have been thousands of flights using these alternatives right now,” she said.

“But I think the challenge is economies of scale.”