Airlines Ban Shipment Of Exotic Animal 'Trophies' To Combat Game Hunting

Swift action in the wake of tragedy.

A week after the now infamous Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer was outed as the killer of Cecil the lion, airlines are stepping up to ban the transportation of big game "trophies."

Hours after Delta Airlines joined Air France, KLM, Iberia, IAG Cargo, Singapore Airlines and Qantas by banning transportation of trophy kills, United and American Airlines have also announced they will no longer permit big game kills in their cargo.  

For animal activists, the hope is that the airlines' ban will help stunt the frequency of American tourists traveling to Africa in pursuit of big game. 

The changes come amidst outrage surrounding the killing of Cecil the lion, a well-known Zimbabwe favorite who was lured out of a national park before reportedly being shot, beheaded and skinned by Palmer and a pair of hunting guides. Soon after, airlines across the globe acknowledged their role in the continued hunting of exotic animals.

But Delta had held out from conforming until a petition pushed the airline to follow suit.

"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, the campaign director at told The New York Times.

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." 

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."

Estimates on lion populations vary, but the general consensus is that they have fallen from about 100,000 a century ago to 35,000 today. For more information about how you can help, check out the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford.

Cover photo via Adam Bettcher / Getty Images.