Emirates, the world’s largest international air carrier, announced in May that it would no longer ship hunting trophies of elephants, rhinos, lions, and tigers. In August, in the wake of Cecil the lion’s trophy-hunt killing (see article, this page), Delta Air Lines—the only US-based airline with direct flights to South Africa—announced that it, too, would bar trophies from these animals, as well as from buffalo. A number of airlines issued similar proclamations—Air France, American Airlines, British Airways, IAG Cargo, Iberia Airlines, KLM, Lufthansa, Singapore Airways, Qantas, United Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic among them.
One airline, however, lost heart. State-owned South African Airways (SAA), the largest carrier in Africa, announced to much fanfare in April that, henceforth, its planes were off limits to elephant, rhino, lion, and tiger trophies. Three months later, the ban bit the dust—an apparent victim of a powerful hunting lobby and pressure from South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs. Department Minister Edna Molewa “welcomed” the capitulation and asserted that the hunting industry is a source of “community development and social upliftment.” A 2013 study by Economists at Large says otherwise: “Trophy hunting advocates consistently portray the industry as a major contributor to African community development. Our research indicates that its contributions are in fact minimal." Hopefully, no other airlines that vowed to ground this gruesome cargo will follow SAA in retreat.