Major US airlines ban big-game trophies on their flights

Three American airlines announced they will no longer ship lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, or buffalo killed by trophy hunters.

Ted S. Warren/AP/File
Delta Air Lines 747-400 airplane sits parked at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle on Oct. 9, 2012. Delta Airlines is one of the three US airlines to ban trophies from flights.

Following global outrage over the illegal killing of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe, a trio of US air carriers have announced they will no longer allow hunters to bring their big-game hunting trophies on flights.

Late Monday, American joined Delta and United in banning the shipment of animals killed by hunters.

United Airlines said it is prohibiting transportation of lions, elephants, rhinoceroses, leopards, and water buffaloes, Bloomberg reported. “We felt it made sense to do so,” Charles Hobart, a United spokesman, said Monday in disclosing the carrier’s decision.

But Delta was the first American airline that announced the ban on shipment of big-game trophies. On Aug. 3 the Atlanta-based airline announced:

Effective immediately, Delta will officially ban shipment of all lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros, and buffalo trophies worldwide as freight. Prior to this ban, Delta's strict acceptance policy called for absolute compliance with all government regulations regarding protected species. Delta will also review acceptance policies of other hunting trophies with appropriate government agencies and other organizations supporting legal shipments.

The move comes after American dentist Walter Palmer killed a relatively well-known lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe last month. Mr. Palmer is believed to have paid about $50,000 to hunt Cecil. The lion, which was wearing a GPS collar as part of a research backed by Oxford University, was lured out of Hwange National Park and killed illegally. 

The Guardian reports that even though most hunted animals are transported by ship, the recent bans will make it harder for hunters to get their trophies home.

Other airlines around the world have also imposed bans on big-game trophies. Virgin Atlantic does not accept “fish, game or hunting trophies” as baggage. Lufthansa Cargo decided in early June to no longer accept any trophies such as lions, elephants, and rhinos from Africa, and Emirates SkyCargo banned such shipments in May, according to The Guardian.

A spokesperson for British Airways told Mashable on Monday that they “do not transport animal trophies of any kind” and added that the airline has always adhered to the rules set out by 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

As an international agreement between governments, CITES aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. The treaty currently has nearly 190 countries signed on to it, with the United States joining in 1974.

In addition to bans on trade and transportation of hunted animals, animal rights groups say there are other ways to put an end to poaching.

One Green Planet website says signing petitions against poaching and volunteering to learn anti-poaching techniques can help reduce the illegal practice.

And the World Wide Fund asks people to push governments to protect threatened animal populations by increasing law enforcement. It also encourages everyone to reduce demand for illegal wildlife parts and products by getting the facts before buying any wildlife or plant product.

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