Since the death of Cecil the Lion, some of the world’s largest air carriers, including UPS, FedEx and South African Airways, are under pressure from Humane Society International to adopt an immediate ban on the transport of hunting trophies, especially Africa’s “Big Five”: African elephants, rhinoceroses, African lions, leopards and Cape buffalo.
Airlines including Delta, Air Canada, United Airlines and American Airlines have implemented similar bans following the tragedy surrounding Cecil, who was killed by an American trophy hunter in Zimbabwe. As well as urgently calling on all 250 international airlines to ban wild trophy carriage, parcel carriers are being urged to no longer be the get-away vehicle for the unethical trophy hunting.
Humane Society International is working to combat the hunting of rare species and protect African lions like Cecil. The group petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2011 for improved protections for African lions and last week sent a letter urging the agency to finalize its proposed rule to protect African lions under the Endangered Species Act.
Teresa Telecky, director of wildlife for Humane Society International, said: “Cecil the Lion’s brutal death at the hands of a wealthy hunter has brought worldwide condemnation of the heinous trophy hunting industry. There is no financial or other reason for any airline to continue to aid and abet this industry.”
African lions currently have no protection under U.S. law, with more than 400 lions killed every year by American trophy hunters, and 3,703 lion trophies imported into the U.S since 2010, including lion heads, paws and other body parts which are free to flow across the U.S. border in unlimited quantities from anywhere in the world.
A 2013 report commissioned by HSI, The HSUS, Born Free and IFAW, demonstrates that trophy hunting is not economically important in African countries, despite hunters’ claims. The report shows that in 2011 trophy hunting contributed only 0.09 percent of the Gross Domestic Product of the nine countries studied. In Zimbabwe, where Cecil was killed, trophy hunting accounts for only 0.2 percent of GDP. By contrast, in Kenya, which does not allow trophy hunting, tourism revenue contributed 5.7 percent of GDP in 2011 (World Travel and Tourism Council).
Poachers and trophy hunters are driving lions to extinction. Fewer than 40,000 African lions—and possibly as few as 23,000—are estimated to remain today. Lions exist in only one-quarter of their former range and are suffering from loss of habitat and prey.