US airline Delta has had a major change of heart about shipping hunting trophies, announcing that it would no longer accept lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo trophies.
As recently as May, the Atlanta-based airline 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.
The U-turn comes after an American dentist killed a well-known lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe last month in an allegedly illegal hunt, setting off a worldwide uproar. The dentist, Walter James Palmer, lives in Minnesota, which is a major hub for Delta.
Delta has the most flights of any US airline to Africa. Several non-US airlines announced similar bans last week.
Delta would not answer questions about why the decision was made now and how many hunting trophies it has shipped in recent years.
The company only issued a 58-word statement noting that prior to Monday’s ban, “Delta’s strict acceptance policy called for absolute compliance with all government regulations regarding protected species”.
Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry consultant, noted that the airline was probably responding to pressure following the news of Cecil’s killing. The airline was the subject of a petition on change.org 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.
Meanwhile US toy-maker Ty Incorporated has created a “Cecil the Lion” Beanie Baby to raise funds for animal conservation efforts.
Chief executive Ty Warner said the company, based in the Chicago suburb of Westmont, hopes the Beanie Baby will raise awareness for animal conservation and “give comfort to all saddened by the loss of Cecil”.
The firm said all profits from “Cecil the Lion” sales to retailers will go to the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit of Oxford University in England. The toy will go on sale at the end of September for $5.99.