Cecil Dies, Public Roars: Airlines Ban Wildlife Trophy Cargo

cecil the lion delta united bans wildlife trophies
Written by Terry Gardner

Delta Airlines and United announced Aug. 3, 2015 that they are banning wildlife trophy shipments on their planes. That’s great news. Sadly, it took the grisly murder of a beloved Zimbabwe lion to get the public and airlines motivated. Travel editor Terry Gardner takes a closer look.

aNewDomain — Three months ago, Chris Green, director of legislative affairs for the Animal Defense League, began a petition on Change.org to help wildlife in Africa. The petition called on Delta Airlines to start refusing to transport slain wildlife parts from Africa.

The petition has been beyond effective.

walter palmer killed cecil the lionBut it took more than a bunch of signatures to convince Delta Airlines and, now, United to fully ban wildlife trophy shipments on their airlines For that, it took the murder of a beloved Zimbabwe lion, known as Cecil the Lion, who was killed, skinned and beheaded by an American dentist Walter Palmer (pictured at right, via a Yelp protest on his page). Palmer hunted Cecil down for some 40 hours after striking him with a bow and arrow, officials said.

See a history of Palmer’s game hunting fines and other legal issues, one involving a settlement regarding sexual harrassment claims and a payout, below.

Delta Airlines this week issued this statement:

Effective immediately, Delta will officially ban shipment of all lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo trophies worldwide as freight.  Prior to this ban, Delta’s strict acceptance policy called for absolute compliance with all government regulations regarding protected species. Delta will also review acceptance policies of other hunting trophies with appropriate government agencies and other organizations supporting legal shipments.

Prior to the ban, Delta had merely insisted on proper documentation to show government compliance.

Cecil the Lion, shown below, was a 13-year-old star attraction in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. His poaching by Palmer has galvanized the public to demand than airlines ban the transport of poached animal parts and trophies more than any other event in recent memory.

Murdered by an American: Cecil the Lion

The lion was lured out of the protected reserve so that he could be hunted. Cecil’s murder has led Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority to ban hunting of lions, leopards and elephants nafraid to die?ear Hwange National Park.

Walter Palmer, a dentist from Bloomington, Minnesota, is the American who shot Cecil. He reportedly paid about $55,000 US for what he believed was a legal big game hunt. Ironically, lots of protesters, reporters and various other wildlife lovers spent much of last week trying to hunt the hunter. Palmer shuttered his dental practice, the doorway of which has become a makeshift memorial for Cecil (see photo below). He reappeared last Thursday, according to ADN.

Also below, find a readable image of the one-page letter Palmer sent his dental patients in an attempt to explain Cecil’s death — and his sudden vacation.

cecil the lion delta united bans wildlife trophies

Famed animal researcher Jane Goodall commented publicly on the lionine tragedy, issuing a statement saying that she was appalled by the lion’s slaying and saddened that anyone would want to hunt the big cats when less than 20,000 wild lions are left in Africa.

Walter Palmer, the American dentist who led the kill mission, now says he regrets killing such a local icon. But he said he has a love for hunting big game, ranging from elk to polar bears and other large animals. He may not be engaging in the pasttime for long, though. Zimbabwe officials have announced they want Palmer extradited to face criminal charges for killing Cecil.

The two men who took Palmer hunting are both currently out on bail.

Here’s a closer look at Cecil, the lion we have lost.

Comedian Jimmy Kimmel did a great job summing up the Lion’s murder. He suggests that concerned citizens go out of their way now to support Oxford’s conservation research. They should and can specify donations in Cecil’s honor:

After the Delta announcement this morning, United Airlines told NBC News that it would also ban shipments of wildlife trophies.

Before Delta changed its policy, the petition that’d garnered almost 400,000 signatures had already convinced such airlines as British Airways, Lufthansa, Emirates, Qantas, Qatar, Etihad, Iberia, Brussels Airplines and Singapore to ban the transport of certain game hunting trophies.

In April, the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa announced a ban by South African Airways (SAA) on the transport of wildlife trophies.

But in July, the airline lifted the ban.

Still, Americans ought to be impressed and moved by Delta and United’s decisions today. They did the right thing.

Whether SAA and other international carriers that offer service in Africa will join the ban remains to be seen.

That’s just sad.

You can urge US Fish & Wildlife Services to do more to protect African lions like Cecil by signing TakePart’s petition to strengthen protections under the Endangered Species Act. Or help other endangered African wildlife by asking US President Barack Obama to make the new ivory restrictions even stronger with additional regulations of antique ivory here.

There are still tens of thousands of large animals like Cecil who remain at the mercy of hunters, mostly wealthy Americans. Aren’t there video games for that? If he gets off, maybe someone will buy dentist Walter Palmer a pair of VR glasses so he can slay as many wild animals as he wants — without any bloodletting, and in the comfort of his own home.

I’ll keep you updated as further news arises.

For aNewDomain, I’m Terry Gardner.

For more about dentist Walter Palmer, including the allegations made against him, there’s a comprehensive explanation at ADN.com.

Walter Palmer’s letter to his dental practice patients is shown below. Source: DocumentCloud

walter palmer letter cecil the lion

Cecil the Lion image: Wikimedia Commons, All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Walter Palmer image from his Yelp page, now a protest page: Yelp.com, All Rights Reserved. 

Image of Autumn Fuller, 10, as she sets down a stuffed lion right in the doorway of River Bluff Dental clinic in Bloomington, Minnesota, in protest against the killing of Zimbabwe famous lion, Cecil, via: Atlantic.com, Eric Miller/Reuters at tk, All Rights Reserved.