Top US Airlines have this week banned the shipment of hunting trophies after outrage broke out across the globe on social media over the alleged killing of one of Africa’s most iconic lions, Cecil, by an American hunter in Zimbabwe.
Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines announced this week that they will no longer allow such cargo on their planes, squeezing options for the over 15,000 American tourists that visit the continent on hunting safaris each year.
It is alleged that the 13-year-old lion named Cecil was hunted down and killed by a Minnesota-based dentist, Walter Palmer, after he paid $55,000 to have the large cat lured out of an animal sanctuary.
The American carrier with the largest footprint in Africa, Delta Air Lines, which was subjected to an online petition signed by over 40,000 people, said on Monday that it is banning all lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo trophies from its cargo holds.
“Effective immediately, Delta will officially ban shipment of all lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo trophies worldwide as freight”, Delta said in a statement.
Two other US carriers—United Airlines and American Airlines—quickly followed suit, the Economist reported.
The ban on animal trophies was initiated by South African Airways in April. An estimated 1,000 lions are killed in South Africa every year and are used in the ‘canned meat’ industry.
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According to the campaign website, other international airlines that have banned transporting of wildlife carcasses include Air Canada, Air France, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, Iberia, KLM, Lufthansa, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic Airways.
Shipment of hunting trophies are however still allowed by the United Parcel Service (UPS) and other smaller less known airlines.
“UPS takes many factors under consideration in establishing its shipping policies, including the legality of the contents and additional procedures required to ensure compliance,” UPS public relations director Susan Rosenberg told The Washington Post.
“We avoid making judgments on the appropriateness of the contents. All shipments must comply with all laws, including any relevant documentation from the shipper required in the origin and destination location of the shipments.”
There is a heated debate that even has conservationists pitted against each other over whether a ban on big game hunting can be of benefit to Africa’s wildlife conservation efforts.
While some argue that a ban would save endangered animals from extinction, others say that the revenue generated from controlled trophy hunting would be used to safeguard the remaining wildlife population.