Delta, United and American Airlines have banned the shipment of big-game trophies on flights after the illegal killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, joining other international airlines that have also agreed to a ban, including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, IAG Cargo, Air France, KLM, Singapore Airlines, Asiana Airlines, Lufthansa, Air Emirates, Iberia Airlines, and Qantas.

by Lady Michelle Jennifer Santos

4 August 2015, NEW YORK (TSR) – Sixteen major airlines in total so far join the cargo and shipment ban on all lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo “trophies”, while three major American airports are expected to follow suit pending on New York legislation.

Delta, United and American Airlines have banned the shipment of big-game trophies on flights after the illegal killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, joining other international airlines that have also agreed to a ban, including  British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, IAG Cargo, Air France, KLM, Singapore Airlines, Asiana Airlines, Lufthansa, Air Emirates, Iberia Airlines, Swiss Airlines, Turkish Airlines and Qantas.

Three months ago in May, the world’s largest airline, Emirates was the first to issue an outright ban on hunting trophy cargo, sending the hunting industry into a tailspin.

After the announcement of CECIL Act Legislation and Feds initiating hunt of Walter Palmer, Delta Air Lines was the first American carrier to announce the change Monday, saying that it would no longer accept lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo trophies.

As one of the world’s largest airlines, the only US carrier with direct service to South Africa and the main transporter of hunting trophies out of South Africa, Delta Air Lines takes a key position, despite strong American hunting lobby, to help protect the Big Five and other vulnerable wild animal populations from further hunting and poaching pressures.

American Airlines and United Airlines soon followed hours later.

As recently as May, Atlanta-based Delta had said that it would continue to allow such shipments — as long as they were legal. At the time, some international carriers prohibited such cargo.

Delta would not answer any questions from The Associated Press about why the decision was made now and how many hunting trophies it has shipped in recent years.

Delta only issued a 58-word statement noting that prior to Monday’s ban:

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.

American Airlinestweet simply read “Effective immediately, we will no longer transport buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion or rhino trophies.” United Airlines’ spokesman Charles Hobart said it made sense for the airline to ban the cargo.

American spokesman Ross Feinstein said it’s largely symbolic because his does not serve Africa.

United, which only has one flight to Africa, also announced Monday afternoon its own restriction. United said its records indicate no shipments of these types of trophies in the past.

The UK-based airline giants said they had never carried hunting kills despite operating flights to destinations across Africa and the Far East.

National flag carrier British Airways (BA) said it operated a “total ban on any form of hunting trophy” and “never carried hunting trophies from endangered species” according to

“We have always adhered to the rules set out by the 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) treaty which puts in place safeguards for hundreds of species.

“In addition we have a total ban on any form of hunting trophy,” according to a Spokesperson.

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Airline insisted it had never carried slaughtered big game in its cargo.

Budget airlines easyJet and Ryanair do not carry cargo on their flights.

Singapore Airlines had placed its ban in May. South African Airways had also halted the ferrying of trophies in April. It then dropped its policy, after being lobbied by Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa (PHASA), in July once it determined that it had sufficient safeguards to stop illegal shipments.

South African Airways embargo on 20 April 2015.
South African Airways embargo on 20 April 2015.
South African Airways rescinding embargo on 20 July 2015.
South African Airways rescinding embargo on 20 July 2015.

The changes come amidst outrage surrounding the killing of Cecil the lion, a well-known Zimbabwe favourite who was lured out of a national park before reportedly being shot, beheaded and skinned by dentist, Dr. Walter James Palmer, who lives in Minnesota, which is a major hub for Delta, and a pair of hunting guides. Soon after, airlines across the globe acknowledged their role in the continued hunting of exotic animals.

Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry consultant, noted that Delta airline company was probably responding to pressure following the news of Cecil’s killing. The airline was the subject of a petition on to ban such shipments.

“I don’t think there was much of this shipment taking place, so there is minimal revenue loss and big PR gain for them,” he said.

CITES Guidelines

According to documentation received by Safari Cargo Services, the world’s airlines that are against hunting trophies are detailed as follows, with a number of major international carriers surprisingly quite relaxed when it comes to the CITES I and CITES II bans. These include Qantas Airways, Etihad and Qatar.

CITES is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora. The CITES Guidelines for the non-air transport of live wild animals and plants were adopted by the Conference of the Parties to CITES at its sixteenth meeting (CoP16, Bangkok, 2013).

CITES Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances.

CITES Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.

Click here to read the full break down of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Faun and Flora. For CITES Export quota, see here.

Many deliver trophies only by air freight. Trophy import companies, like the ones in Russia, on which the airport of destination is imperatively Moscow Domodedovo (DME) airport, DCT terminal, require export CITES permits.

For CITES Appendix II species – importers usually as copies of export CITES Permits from the country of export. For CITES Appendix I species – they ask copies of export CITES Permits from the country of export, which will enables them to receive the corresponding Russia import CITES Permits. If the exporting country can not issue export CITES without Russian import CITES – they normally will require Pre-CITES (Confirmation Letter) from the sender’s CITES Authorities (see examples: from Namibia, RSA, Zambia and Zimbabwe), which will enable them to receive the Russian import CITES Permit. The originals of all export CITES Permits are usually attached to the shipping documents and arrive to DME together with the trophies.

Elephant head trophy

For America, a separate U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) import permit application form is required to import regulated wildlife, i.e., North American migratory birds, threatened or endangered species, CITES-listed species, marine mammals, and injurious species, and follow the same process as for foreign scientific collecting permits. The Museum has a USFWS import/export permit for migratory birds.

All imported wildlife products must follow USFWS import/export permit procedures, including filing of a 3-177 import/export declaration form. The form should be filed at the time of entry into the U.S. (i.e., at customs). Wildlife must be imported/exported through a USFWS designated port. If wildlife will be imported through a different port, a USFWS Exception to Designated Port permit must be obtained.

If you want to trade to or from the EU (importing, exporting or re-exporting) parts of animal species included in the CITES appendices and products made from them (e.g. handbags, wallets, belts, shoes), at the time of import or export you are required to present the original valid CITES certificate (CITES export permit or re-export certificate), issued by the appropriate authority (CITES Management Authority) of the country of origin or provenance. The necessary documents can only be issued upon satisfaction of certain conditions and must then be presented to the customs authorities.

Both python skin and crocodile skin are included in these CITES appendices; therefore trade in them is carried out subject to the strict rules and procedures enforced by Cites.

Some species of reptiles and snakes are currently in danger of extinction due to the destruction of their natural habitat and due to heavy international trade in them, in many cases through the opportunistic and often illegal sale of their skins. It is  possible to contribute to the improvement of this situation by adhering scrupulously to all the regulations concerning trade in protected species.

It is important to note that the CITES certificate cannot be issued by the local authorities where the business is based, but only in the departments of approved CITES authorities that are specialised in drawing up these documents. In most cases these authorities are located at a considerable distance from the town where the business is based.

Trophy Hunting Does Not Help Conservation

A report by the think tank Economists at Large estimates that “less than 3 percent of the revenue from trophy hunting goes to local guides, business owners or people living in communities near the animals.”

The African Big Five are vulnerable now.Last year, more than a thousand rhinos were poached in South Africa, elephant populations have plummeted 66% in just five years.

Estimates on lion populations vary, but the general consensus is that they have fallen from about 100,000 a century ago from 200,000 to 30,000-35,000 in Africa today. 600 lions are killed every year, 64% of that is done by U.S. citizens.

Americans account for the majority of non-African hunters, with more than 15,000 Americans going to Africa each year for hunting safaris.
Americans account for the majority of non-African hunters, with more than 15,000 Americans going to Africa each year for hunting safaris.

Americans account for the majority of non-African hunters, with more than 15,000 Americans going to Africa each year for hunting safaris. Despite that, any concern about the bans affecting local economy should be quickly extinguished with the knowledge that “it does little for the local economy.”

Wildlife experts told the BBC that recent bans in particular are significant, as they block all trophies – not just protected species or those hunted illegally – from being transported.

Mark Jones, a wildlife policy manager with the Born Free Foundation, said the focus had been on trying to persuade “the big American carriers” not to transport trophies – that has now been achieved, he said.

“But trophy hunters can be very determined people,” he said. “They will look for other ways to transport their cargo.”

The focus now, Mr Jones said, could be on airlines from developing economies, whose citizens he said are taking more of an interest in hunting.

A spokeswoman for China Airlines, that does not fly to Africa, said cargo managers told her they had never been asked or approached to carry trophy animals.

Courier company FedEx said it did not accept animal carcasses for shipment but “may accept legitimate shipments of parts for taxidermy purposes”.

A spokesman for UPS said the delivery company avoids “making judgements” on the contents of shipments but all must comply with the law.

Maersk, a shipping company, said it had strict procedures in place to prevent its ships carrying illegal cargo.

And Cargolux, a cargo airline, said it does not carry ivory or any animal products coming under Cites Appendix One. Other airline cargo companies did not reply.

Also on Monday, never one to miss a marketing opportunity, a “Cecil the Lion” Beanie Baby was announced by toymaker Ty; all profits from sales will go to WildCRU, the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit of University of Oxford in Oxford, England. “Hopefully, this special Beanie Baby will raise awareness for animal conservation and give comfort to all saddened by the loss of Cecil,” said Ty Warner, the company’s founder.

Cecil’s death will not be in vain

The country of Zimbabwe is seeking the extradition of Palmer and alleged accomplice Jan Casimir Seski, who poached another lion.

Jan Casimir Seski of Murrysville, Pennsylvania, shot the lion with a bow and arrow near Hwange National Park, without approval and on land where it was not allowed, said Zimbabwe’s National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.

Seski’s action resulted to Zimbabwe’s wildlife authority suspending the hunting of lions, leopards and elephants in the Hwange area, and said Saturday that bow and arrow hunts can be approved only by the head of the wildlife authority.


Cecil’s head and pelt were seized by police when they raided the house of Theo Bronkhorst, a guide who has since been arrested.

The head and pelt were to be sent to South Africa for export to the US, Jonny Rodrigues, the chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, told the BBC.

He said they were hopeful police would return Cecil’s head so it could be mounted at the entrance to Hwange National Park as a memorial to the lost lion.


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