Hallelujah: Delta, other airlines to ban animal “trophies”

Ever since last week, the world has been mourning Cecil, a 13-year-old Southwest African lion who was lured out of the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe by recreation game hunter and American dentist Walter Palmer. Ever since, social media has been (rightfully) up in arms about animal rights and the cruelties of safari hunting and poaching. Sometimes, tragedies can open our eyes to changes that need to be made in society: particularly, the transporting of hunting trophies and what role they play in the prevalence of poaching.

Trophy hunting involves tracking down and killing select animals, and the slain body of the victim is often kept as a “trophy” to show off. The head is often used to “mount” and show off the kill. If there’s no way to transport the trophy, one would hope that the number of poachings and safari hunting would go down. “As one of the world’s largest airlines. . . Delta Air Lines is in a key position to help protect these and other vulnerable wild animal populations from further hunting and poaching pressures,” wrote Chris Green in a Change.org petition urging Delta to change the airline rules surrounding the transportation of hunting trophies. The petition had almost 400,000 supporters.

Monday afternoon, we learned that Delta has listened to the pleas. “Effective immediately, Delta will officially ban shipment of all lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo trophies worldwide as freight,” Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant said in a statement yesterday, according to the New York Times. “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.”

Shortly after, on Monday evening, American Airlines also announced that they, too, would be banning the shipments of animal trophies — specifically, what hunters call “the big five.” “Effective immediately, we will no longer transport buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion or rhino trophies,” the airline tweeted last night.

As for United Airways, they’ve never shipped “the big five” gaming trophies, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Dohm. “. . . we have not done so previously. . . United also follows all U.S. domestic and international regulations, which prohibits the possession of trophies or other items associated with protected species,” Dohm said in an email to the Washington Post.

These announcements from the three major American airlines comes after several other airlines, including Qantas, KLM, Air France, Iberia, IAG Cargo, and Singapore Airlines, similarly banned their cargo policies in reference to animal trophies.  “Airlines and other large travel corporations would be foolish to ignore the public reaction to the killing of Cecil the lion, and growing concern about the plight of endangered species,” Paul Ferris, campaign director of SumOfUs.org, a consumer-based petition website that has been pressing for this change, told the New York Times.

Petitions aren’t the only component of the pressure against airlines to make the big ban. Activists, consumers, and organizations have also been urging for change. “Lions, elephants and the other species that make up the Africa Big Five belong on the savanna, not on the walls and in home museums of wealthy people who spend a fortune to kill the grandest, most majestic animals in the world,” president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States Wayne Pacelle said in a statement, according to The Washington Post. “Delta has set a great example, and no airline should provide a getaway vehicle for the theft of Africa’s wildlife by these killers.”

We could not agree more. Change may sometimes be born from the ashes of a great tragedy, but we sincerely hope this isn’t where that change ends.

(Image via Instagram)


Jimmy Kimmel is just as heartbroken about Cecil the Lion as we are