After the killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe sparked an international outcry last month, a number of major airlines have decided to ban the shipment of big-game trophies on their flights.
Early on Monday, Delta Airlines — the largest U.S. provider of flights to Africa — announced that it would no longer allow the transportation of elephants, rhinoceroses, leopards, water buffalo or lions on its aircraft. A few hours later, United announced its own ban covering the same five animals.
These species are referred to as the “Big Five” game animals of Africa. The term, originally coined by big-game hunters, refers to the five hardest and most dangerous animals to hunt on foot in Africa. Because of the difficulty and danger involved, the Big Five became the most coveted trophies for foreign hunters visiting the continent.
Of course, you’d be very hard-pressed to find any big-game hunters actually tracking these animals on foot today. In the case of Cecil, for example, the hunting party lured the lion out of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park by tying a dead animal to the back of their car (killing him within the park would have been illegal).
Once Cecil was outside the park limits, American Walter Palmer shot him with a bow and arrow from the safety of his vehicle. Cecil survived the initial attack and wandered around wounded for two days before Palmer and his guides finally caught up to him and shot him dead — not exactly the most dangerous and difficult hunt ever.
While neither Delta nor United mentioned Cecil by name in their announcements, it’s pretty reasonable to assume that the bans are a direct result of the uproar that followed news of his gruesome death.
The bans are being praised by animal rights groups around the world:
“No airline should provide a get-away vehicle for the theft of Africa’s wildlife,”
said Wayne Pacelle, chief executive of the U.S. Humane Society, in a statement.
Singapore Airlines Ltd. and South Korea’s Asiana Airlines Inc. have also enacted bans on the shipment of trophy animals. South African Airways put a halt on the legal shipment of hunting trophies in April, but lifted the ban in July after determining that it had sufficient safeguards in place to prevent any illegal shipments.