Lufthansa Departs From Animal Cargo Trade

FRANKFURT, Germany, May 1, 2001 (ENS) - One of the world's biggest airlines has announced it will no longer transport wild animals for commercial purposes. In an announcement made with conservation groups in attendance, representatives from Lufthansa said the decision is effective today.

"We will thus make a key contribution towards protecting wildlife and endangered species within our possibilities as an airline," said Dr. Andreas Otto of Lufthansa's cargo division.

aircraft

Lufthansa aircraft on the tarmac at Heathrow Airport, in the United Kingdom. (Photo by Ian Britton, courtesy freefoto.com)
The company will work with German group Pro Wildlife and the Bath, United Kingdom based Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) to support wildlife protection efforts worldwide. It will continue to transport wild animals involved in projects aimed at protecting wildlife and endangered species.

"Commercial trading in animals represents a serious threat to wildlife species," said Daniela Freyer of Munich based Pro Wildlife. "The high mortality rates linked with this trade and the violation of natural habitats are a growing threat to the survival of wildlife."

Niki Entrup, director of WDCS Germany, said Lufthansa had set an example for other airlines to follow.

"We hope that the joint commitment will lead to a general turnaround in the international trade in wild animals," said Entrup. "Lufthansa's decision is an important first step towards preventing the wholesale trade in wild animals. Now it is up to other airlines to make similar decisions."

The three organizations have drawn up criteria to ensure that only transports of wild animals involving the reintroduction of animals to the wild, scientifically conducted breeding programs to protect endangered species or life-saving measures will be carried out.

owl monkeys

Owl monkeys were among those species transported to United States laboratories last year. (Photo courtesy Beaver College Psychobiology)
Air freight is the transport of choice for zoos and entertainment parks exhibiting wild animals. Additional demand from laboratories for research animals, usually primates, means that millions of wild animals are exported as cargo over long distances every year.

This takes place often in cramped conditions with inadequate ventilation and extreme temperature fluctuations.

Last September, the Taiwan based China Airlines, the second largest transporter of non-human primates destined for research in United States laboratories, announced it would no longer accept such business.

Every year, commercial airlines transport more than 10,000 non-human primates such as baboons, Rhesus macaques, Owl monkeys and marmosets, to the U.S.

The leading carrier in this niche is Air France, which carried 27 shipments, totalling 3,274 Long-tailed macaques, last year. All the shipments originated in Mauritius and reached Chicago or Houston via Paris.

Air France defends the practice, saying that it complies with the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations on humane transport of animals.

That code states that animal enclosures must be, "large enough to ensure that the animal has sufficient space to turn around freely in a normal manner, lie down, stand up (as appropriate for the species), and sit in a normal upright position without its head touching the top of the enclosure."

aircraft

Air France is the leading cargo carrier of non-human primates to the United States. (Photo by Ian Britton, courtesy freefoto.com)
In 1990, Lufthansa became the first airline in the world to impose an embargo on the trade in exotic birds trapped in the wild. Since 1995 Lufthansa Cargo has not transported primates between third countries in accordance with regulations issued by the German Federal Ministry of Transport.

No whales or dolphins have been transported by the airline since December 1999.

Otto said the airline tries to ensure that "live cargo" begins its journey under the best possible conditions, and is in "top form" when it lands.

"If, in terms of wildlife protection or conservation, there are any reasons against a transport, Lufthansa Cargo will refuse it," added Werner Schüssler, vice president of global cargo handling at Lufthansa Cargo.