Combatting wildlife trafficking is a challenge in Yemen
One of the main wildlife trafficking routes between Africa and Asia is the Horn of Africa to Yemen route.
Combating wildlife trafficking in Yemen is challenging because of the unrest in the area, which has lasted decades, the poor economy (45% of Yemenis live below poverty line, making only US$ 2.00 per day) and because of the lack of control of many entry points into Yemen.
Yemen has about 200 islands and 2,500 Km of coastline facing Somalia, which hasn’t had border control on its exits for decades.
One indicator of that is the presence of 700,000 Somali refugees in Yemen who play a role in wildlife trafficking.
One can hardly blame them as they are already suffering a lot as refugees.
Rhino horns, cheetah and lion cubs, big-cat skins, antelopes and many other items are smuggled from the Horn of Africa to Yemen.
Most of these items are destined for other Arabian Peninsula countries where there is high demand for wildlife, especially exotic pets.
Within Yemen there is an additional problem--the poaching of endemic species such as the very rare Arabian leopard to send to other Arabian Peninsula countries.
Yemen is also a hotspot for catching sharks and the export of shark fin to the Far East.
Yemen was on our list as a country where we were looking forward to organizing a Prevention of Wildlife Trafficking Training (PWTT) program for customs in cooperation with the Environmental Protection Authority of Yemen.
We’ve been waiting for more than a year, and we wanted to target custom officials not in the capital San’aa but those far from the capital who have no idea about international wildlife trade rules.
They are not aware of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora or CITES as it is commonly known.
This time we targeted Al-Mukalla, a major seaport in the south where wildlife reaches Yemen through its entries, the seaport and the airport. There we organized a workshop from December 3-5, 2012.
About 25 participants from Al-mukalla seaport and airport, in addition to officials from Ministry of Water and Environment, participated in the workshop.
The workshop was not limited to lectures but it included practical exercises about how to discover different smuggling techniques, identify common wildlife products and verify permits.
The rewarding side of these efforts are reaching those who work far away from their capital in a country suffering from unrest and a poor economy. And the real thanks we received is the appreciation from participants who we advised about the important part of their daily work.
“I really benefited from this workshop as I never heard about CITES before,” one of the participants said.
“More workshops are needed as we need to go more in-depth in identifying wildlife species,” another participant noted.
Many of the custom officers mentioned that wildlife products were allowed through and not seized because they simply did not know that they are regulated.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare always considered the different aspects of Yemeni nature while trying to make the maximum impact of our training workshop.
Running the training in Arabic, reaching the custom officers at their local sites and assessing their practical needs in work make IFAW widely respected in the environmental society in Yemen.
In the future, we are planning to organize other workshops for prevention of wildlife trafficking in other entry points of Yemen, and also on our list is to organize a shark conservation workshop in Al-mukkala.
I call on other conservation and animal welfare organizations to join us in these efforts. There is much work needed to be done and I assure you of the appreciation of Yemeni people in this regards.