Lion’s Death Spurs Airlines to Refuse Hunting Trophies
Most people know by now who Cecil the lion is, or rather, was. Cecil was a male Southwest African Lion that lived mostly in the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. He was 13 years old and a major draw to those that visited the park. The University of Oxford was tracking and studying him for part of a study.
On July 1st, an American recreational big-game hunter, Walter Palmer, shot Cecil with an arrow, tracked him and killed him with a rifle 40 hours later. Two men who helped lead the expedition are being charged for hunting illegally on the farm and the Zimbabwe government is attempting to extradite Palmer to face a charge as well. International media picked up the story, complete with photos of Palmer standing with the slaughtered lion and soon everyone from animal conservationists to politicians to celebrities were furious and taking to social media and other public outlets with their cries of disgust.
This week, a handful of airlines are hearing those cries and doing their part to appease the world’s public outrage. A Delta customer started an online petition at Change.org, and gathered almost 400,000 signatures asking the airline to stop shipping exotic hunting trophies. Delta has the most flights to Africa than any other U.S. Airline.
Amid the outcry, Delta Airlines decided to set out and lead the initiative in refusing to ship exotic animals killed by hunters and deemed as trophies. Just this past May they were still allowing such shipments, provided they were legal, but have recently had a change of heart. They proclaimed a ban on all freight consisting of the “big five”, which are lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros kills throughout the world. Delta’s statement also said, “Prior to this ban, Delta’s strict acceptance policy called for absolute compliance with all government regulations regarding protected species. Delta will therefore review acceptance policies of other hunting trophies with appropriate government agencies and other organisations supporting legal shipments. ”
American Airlines was right on the heels, quickly making the same announcement. United Airlines followed suit, posting on their Facebook page, “We restrict the shipments of lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo trophies on our aircraft and follow all US domestic and international regulations, which prohibits the possession of trophies or other items associated with protected species.” Charlie Hobart, a spokesman for United, also mentioned that United’s “records indicate that we have not shipped these types of trophies in the past.”
Air Canada also joined the ranks, with spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick writing an email to HuffPost: “Effective immediately, Air Canada will refuse to carry any shipment of lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and water buffalo trophies worldwide as freight. It should be noted that historically the shipment of such trophies has been extremely rare, as Air Canada does not operate flights to Africa. This ban goes over and above Air Canada’s long-standing policy to comply strictly with the regulations of the jurisdictions in which it operates that are in place to protect endangered wildlife in accordance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).”
Other airlines with bans include Lufthansa Cargo, who banned lions, elephants an rhinos to be shipped from Africa this past June. Emirates SkyCargo also stopped allowing these types of shipments in May. Even still, most animals are sent by ship. The bans will certainly make it more
difficult for hunters such as Palmer to get their trophies home, and Africa’s multi-million dollar game industry is certain to suffer.