By Vesela Todorova
Dubai’s position as a travel hub providing quick connections between Africa and Asia is attracting the interest of wildlife traffickers, an investigation by Al Jazeera has found.
The emirate gets only a cursory mention in The Return of the Lizard King, a documentary that investigates Anson Wong, a Malaysian who is one of the world’s most famous wildlife traffickers. But through a year of research the Al Jazeera team found evidence that Dubai was being a key link in a smuggling route through which rare and highly-endangered animals and birds are taken from habitats in Africa, shipped to the Far East and then sold on to wealthy collectors worldwide.
“Dubai is a major hub now, in terms of international travel and especially coming from the African countries, this is a big source place for wildlife trafficking,” said Steve Chao, host of the news and current affairs programme 101 East, which aired the report in late November.
Through the course of the investigation, Mr Chao posed as a wildlife dealer in Madagascar, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. His dealings with traffickers convinced him of their in-depth knowledge about security procedures in airports throughout the world.
“They have inside information from customs officials as to which airports have X-ray checks, how many hours it takes before a suitcase or briefcase is X-rayed, they have all this information,” he said.
What makes Dubai attractive for traffickers is the availability of quick connections between destinations which means that for some flights, luggage that has been checked at the original destination is not screened by UAE officials.
“They know specifically that if they can get something from Madagascar, for example, to Dar es Salaam and then through to Dubai, they can quickly pick up another plane anywhere within a few hours, therefore bypassing the need for an X-ray check,” he said.
The trade in endangered animals and plants is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which requires government-issued permits for certain species to cross borders. More....