Hunters and others looking to ship lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo heads and other big-game trophies across the world still have options available, even as Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and Air Canada announced this week that they will no longer allow such cargo on their planes.
Shipments of hunting trophies are still allowed by United Parcel Service, a UPS spokeswoman told The Washington Post on Tuesday, noting that the global shipping giant follows U.S. and international laws, not public opinion, in determining what it will and won’t ship.
“There are many items shipped in international commerce that may spark controversy,” UPS public relations director Susan Rosenberg wrote in an e-mail. “The views on what is appropriate for shipment are as varied as the audiences that hold these views.
“UPS takes many factors under consideration in establishing its shipping policies, including the legality of the contents and additional procedures required to ensure compliance. We avoid making judgments on the appropriateness of the contents. All shipments must comply with all laws, including any relevant documentation from the shipper required in the origin and destination location of the shipments.”
Although FedEx doesn’t ship animal carcasses, the company “may accept legitimate shipments of parts for taxidermy purposes if they meet our shipping guidelines,” a spokesman said in an e-mail to The Post.
“These are legitimate shipments, not shipments that are illegally obtained,” spokesman Jim McCluskey wrote Tuesday. “Our priority is to ensure we abide by laws and regulations for all shipments.”
The policies of airlines and shipping companies are drawing extra attention and scrutiny following the death of one of Africa’s most iconic lions, which was killed in a hunt this summer.
That lion, known as Cecil, was killed in Zimbabwe by an American big-game hunter, an act that has sparked international outrage. Walter Palmer, a Minnesota dentist, has said he had “no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite.”
“I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt,” he said last week in a statement obtained by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Delta announced its ban in an afternoon statement Monday, saying it was “effective immediately.”
“Prior to this ban, Delta’s strict acceptance policy called for absolute compliance with all government regulations regarding protected species,” the carrier said. “Delta will also review acceptance policies of other hunting trophies with appropriate government agencies and other organizations supporting legal shipments.”
Late Monday night, American Airlines announced its own ban on shipments of trophies from the animals that comprise what hunters frequently call “the big five.”
Effective immediately, we will no longer transport buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion or rhino trophies.
— American Airlines (@AmericanAir) August 4, 2015
Eff. today, we refuse to carry shipments of lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros & water buff. trophies as freight pic.twitter.com/HwneXyprNl
— Air Canada (@AirCanada) August 4, 2015
The carriers joined United Airlines in refusing to transport big-game trophies. In an e-mail to The Washington Post, United spokeswoman Jennifer Dohm said Tuesday that the airline “does not ship” the five animals as freight and added that “we have not done so previously.”
“Lions, elephants and the other species that make up the Africa Big Five belong on the savanna, not on the walls and in home museums of wealthy people who spend a fortune to kill the grandest, most majestic animals in the world,” Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement. “Delta has set a great example, and no airline should provide a getaway vehicle for the theft of Africa’s wildlife by these killers.”
The Humane Society had urged the airline industry “to join the international fight to end trophy hunting.”
As The Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham reported, wealthy American tourists account for the majority of lions killed for sport in Africa. A 2011 report by the International Fund for Animal Welfare found that between 1999 and 2008, Americans brought home lion trophies (including heads and pelts) representing 64 percent of all African lions killed for sport during that period.
And that number is rising: “Of these trophies, the number imported into the U.S. in 2008 was larger than any other year in the decade studied and more than twice the number in 1999,” the report found.
“In Africa overall,” the report says, Americans “make up the greatest number” of big-game hunters targeting the big five, as well as animals such as antelopes and zebras — “particularly in countries where hunting safaris are expensive.”
The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, a nongovernmental organization, believes that Cecil was lured off the Hwange National Park — land on which he was protected.
In the aftermath of the hunt, protesters gathered at Palmer’s dental practice, and his membership to Safari Club International was suspended. He has largely remained out of sight, though a representative has made contact with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials.
On Sunday, Zimbabwe’s National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority accused a second American doctor, Jan Seski, of illegally killing a lion in April. The wildlife authority said Seski killed the animal — without approval — with a bow and arrow on land where it was not allowed, near Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, according to the Associated Press.
This post, originally published on Aug. 3, has been updated. Peter Holley contributed.