Sporting and touring events that include hunting are going to be looking for a new way to ship their participants’ trophies home following a decision by three major airlines to stop transporting big game animals. The decision is the latest fallout from the killing of Zimbabwe's Cecil the lion last month.
In a report from Reuters, three U.S. airlines – Delta, United and American – announced they have banned the transport of lion, leopard, elephant, rhino or buffalo killed by trophy hunters. Other airlines are expected to follow suit.
The animals are known in Africa as the ‘big five,’ a term coined by hunters because they are the hardest to kill on foot.
American dentist Walter Palmer shot and killed Cecil, a rare black-maned lion that was a familiar sight at Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park.
Following the incident, Delta Air Lines has also stated that it will review policies on accepting other hunting trophies with government agencies and other organizations that support legal shipments.
Even before the killing of Cecil the lion, campaigners had called for major cargo airlines to halt shipments of endangered species killed by trophy hunters.
Nearly 400,000 people signed a Change.org petition that was started by a Delta customer calling for the airline to stop transporting exotic hunting trophies, the organization said.
Lufthansa Cargo, for example, decided in early June to no longer accept any trophies such as lions, elephants and rhinos from Africa, while Emirates SkyCargo banned such shipments in May.
According to a Huffington Post article, South African Airways, troubled by incidents of false documentation, suspended the transport of big game trophies from Africa several months ago, including the heads of lions killed on canned hunting operations in the country. It reversed that decision several weeks ago, saying the Department of Environmental Affairs had agreed to tighten inspections and crack down on false permits. It was also widely reported that pressure from Safari Club International and other groups aligned with the trophy hunting industry, had contributed to South African Airways’ change of heart. Emirates Airlines, on the other hand, has remained steadfast in not accepting hunting trophies of lions, elephants, and rhinos.
Reuters noted that despite the fact that most animals shot by hunters are sent by ship, the bans will make it harder for the hunters to get their trophies home to put above the mantelpiece, dealing a blow to Africa's multi-million-dollar game industry.
Zimbabwe has called for the extradition of Palmer, who is accused of killing Cecil in an illegal hunt. The 13-year-old lion was fitted with a GPS collar as part of an Oxford University study.