Exhibition seeks to counter Prague’s role as animal smuggling hub

An exhibition Wild for Life got underway at Prague airport this week, featuring large format photos of world famous celebrities morphed with pictures of animals endangered by poaching and illegal trafficking. The exhibition is part of an international campaign for endangered wildlife. I spoke to Jan Stejskal of world famous Dvůr Králové Zoo, which is involved in the campaign, and asked him to outline its main aims:

“Wild for Life was launched last year and the main organizer is United Nation’s Environment Programme. The main aim of the campaign is to reach to people who might get involved in illegal trade in wildlife.

“We as the Dvůr Králové Zoo joined the campaign already last year. The part related to rhinos was actually launched in June 2016 in our zoo. We invited the Vietnamese singer Thu Minh helps us to approach people in Vietnam.

“The reason is that rhino horn is actually one of the commodities heavily involved in illegal trade in wildlife and Vietnam is one of the main consuming countries of this illegal commodity.”

Is it true that the Czech Republic is one of the top countries as far as animal smuggling is concerned?

“Unfortunately the Czech Republic has become a smuggling hub for many commodities related to animals, which has been proven by seizures that have been made by the Czech environmental inspectorate.

“For instance, our customs officials have revealed a huge smuggling operation of rhino horn made through the Czech Republic to Vietnam from South Africa.”

What are the Czech authorities doing to curb the illegal trade?

“As far as I know they do thorough checks at the airport and they also try to check data from their partners abroad. I would say our environmental inspectorate and the Czech customs officials are among the most active within the Eastern Europe. We have a higher number of seizures than our neighbouring countries, but this is because we have very active authorities.”

Wild for Life is an interactive campaign. How can ordinary people take part in it?

“It is actually very easy. If you visit the website Wild for life you can morph your portrait with a portrait of an animal you choose. You can then share it on social media to bring attention to the problem and invite your friends to join the campaign.

“You can also learn about the endangered animal and tell your friends about the dangers they face. And you can also act, which is related more to people who live in the consuming countries.

You can try influence your friends and family and convince them that consuming a rhino horn will not make you any healthier and that the rhino horn does not have any healing properties.”