America’s big-game hunters are running out of delivery options for the animals they kill.
Three U.S. airlines have announced they will no longer transport buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion or rhino trophies. The move comes amid widespread outrage over big-game hunting, following the killing of Cecil, one of Zimbabwe’s most famous lions, by a dentist from Minnesota.
American Air Lines, Delta and United each announced that they will take up the ban on such trophies, joining Birtish Airways, Lufthansa, and South African Airways, in refusing to abet big-game hunting.
The killing of Cecil the Lion drew international attention because Cecil was a collared lion, under study by researchers from Oxford University and not approved for hunting. But outrage over Cecil’s death has fallen on all forms of big-game hunting, regardless of its legality.
While the outcry has forced Cecil’s killer to shutter his dental practice and go into hiding, airlines that facilitate legal big-game hunting have been met with change.org petitions calling for them to wash their hands of the “sport.”
However, there is disagreement even among conservationists about whether well-regulated big-game hunting can actually be a net benefit for wildlife, as some percentage of the revenue collected from hunters is often invested in wildlife resource agencies.
Palmer allegedly paid $50,000 for the privilege of killing a lion, and that price is not atypical - big-game hunting effectively redistributes wealth from prosperous western tourists to some of the world’s most cash-strapped African governments.
According to a 2006 study by the African Wildlife Conservation Fund, South Africa generated $100 million a year from big-game hunting. CNBC estimates that the figure is actually closer to $200 million today.
However, conservationists have also found that lion populations decline wherever big-game hunting is legal, as regulations designed to prevent population depletion are undermined by corruption.