We speak to General Manager Philip Knowles of live animals agent JCS Livestock about shipping everything from anteaters to zebra, working with major zoos worldwide, and ensuring the ethical treatment of animals during transit
What’s the story behind JCS’ specialism in animal relocation?
James Cargo was founded 40 years ago, and I joined the company about 25 years ago. I had worked at SA Freight and Securicor Air Couriers, where we handled consignments of reptiles, and hatching eggs both at Heathrow and Gatwick. I bailed out Marwell Zoo one Sunday because their old freight agent hadn’t turned up to clear a snow leopard through customs, and that was my first zoological clearance and, not knowing one end of a snow leopard to another, I managed to clear it through customs. After that the zoological work started to pour in. Soon after, I joined James Cargo and my former live animal customers followed me. Today, I’m general manager of the livestock side of the business, and in my 25 years here, we’ve moved anteaters to zebras, if it’s in a zoo, we’ve moved it, and if it’s owned as a pet, we’ve moved it. The only thing we don’t move are animals to be used for experimental purposes and anything that is wild caught for the pet trade.
Who have been your clients and some notable projects over the years?
We have various commercial clients for whom we move dogs for security purposes, such as sniffer dogs, guard and guide dogs, for Dogs for the Blind and the NFL, for instance. We deal with most of the zoos in the UK – we recently transported three lionesses with IAG Cargo from London Zoo to Frankfurt, because you’re one of the only carriers operating wide-body aircraft into Frankfurt at the time.
Over the years, we’ve done a fair amount of work with IAG Cargo from Montserrat, following the volcano eruption in 1995, which wiped out the Montserrat Chicken Frogs, which are indigenous to the island. We worked together with London Zoo and Jersey Zoo to collect those that were clear of clinical disease to rebreed various colonies, and transport them back to the island. We also have a pigmy hippo flying to a zoo in Florida.
What processes and procedures do you undertake to ensure the ethical treatment of animals during transit?
Any animal that we move has to be transported in some form of container. The containers are built to minimum requirements as laid out by the IATA Live Animal Regulations (IATA LAR). The IATA LAR is the minimum standard, and we generally go above and beyond that – we also use these regulations for any consignment that we move by road. It’s a little known fact that in EU law, all crates that go by road must comply with IATA standards. We were also among the first to have fully insulated and climate-controlled vehicles that can be controlled from -10 degrees to +30 degrees, depending on what we’re carrying.
What accreditation do you have?
We’re members of IATA, the Animal Transportation Association, the IPATA – the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association. IAG Cargo is members of both of those associations too. We’re also members OATA (the Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association) and BIAZA (the British and Irish Association of Zoo and Aquaria). We’ve won three awards with BIFA (the British and Irish Freight Association) for specialist services with live animal moves, and we won the Global Freight Awards, and came runners-up for live animal moves.
Could you describe any standout stories of live animal shipments in your career?
Moving any big cat or large primate is always an experience. They’re such intelligent animals. A few years ago I went to Melbourne for a conference, and then to Melbourne Zoo where there was a male gorilla that I had shipped down there. We had had some fun and games at the airport, and it had been three years since I’d seen him, but he remembered me, and came up and sat alongside me. They have very, very good memories.
A lot of people in the freight industry, you pick up your box, tender it to the airline, it flies off, and you never see it again. But when you go to the other side of the world and see an animal that you shipped there, three or four years previously, and it recognises you, it does bring a leak to the corner of your eye.
What reassurance would you give prospective clients?
Aircraft design has moved on and is a lot better than it used to be, and the processes have evolved and continue to improve year on year. With IAG Cargo’s current fleet of 777 and 787s, all those old fears of the cold, dank cargo holds of older aircraft, need to be forgotten.
Why do you use IAG Cargo?
We’re a British company and we like to use a British carrier, and you offer more direct flights to any destination than anyone else out of London. I have had great service over the years, and you are also able to carry a range of animals, there aren’t many restrictions on what we can book with IAG Cargo, which makes everything a lot easier. We even moved a pet goldfish with IAG Cargo once from London to New York, for a family who were relocating.
Looking to ship a live animal? Find out more information here.