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Conservationists Call on Airlines to Refuse Shipments of Exotic Animals Killed for Trophies

posted: 05/15/15
by: Danny Clemens
Lion cub and mother rest in grass. Panthera leo. Masai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya.
Jeff Foott/DCL

South Africa is home to a booming trophy hunting industry. The African Wildlife Conservation Fund estimates that the 50,000 animals shot peach year in the country generate a whopping $100 million in revenue. Many of those animals are hunted by foreigners from North America and Europe, who stuff the animals' heads and keep them as trophies.

Animal conservationists, however, are taking a stand against the practice. A petition making the rounds on the web calls on Delta Airlines, the only carrier to operate nonstop service between South Africa and the United States, to refuse shipments of exotic animals hunted for trophies.

"By refusing to play a role in the wildlife trafficking supply chain, Delta Air Lines can demonstrate the strong and ethical leadership that has made it such a successful and respected company. More importantly, Delta will be preserving a valuable natural resource that provides one of the primary reasons customers choose to fly Delta to visit Africa and other wilderness destinations," said Chris Green, a Delta frequent flier who started the petition.

In an email to DSCOVRD, Delta spokesperson Morgan Durrant responded to the petition: "Delta accepts hunting trophies in accordance with all U.S. domestic and international regulations, which prohibits the possession of trophies or other items associated with protected species. Customers are required to produce detailed documentation of trophies to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officials as their trophies undergo inspection."

Last month, South African Airways, South Africa's largest airline, announced an embargo on the transport of rhino, elephant, tiger and lion trophies. The embargo was imposed after game hunters disguised a shipment of elephant tusks as spare machinery parts. During a stopover in Australia, the tusks were discovered by customs agents and seized.

"We had to act swiftly to curb the problem of illegal transportation of animals," said spokesperson Tlali Tlali.

The issue of trophy hunting is highly polarized: critics cite the obvious animal rights issues involved, while proponents argue that trophy hunting is an effective population technique management.

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