Breaking News: More airlines are coming on board in the wake of the savage and senseless killing of Cecil the lion, with JetBlue and CargoJet pledging within the last 24 hours to ban shipments of trophies of the Africa Big Five. They join Air Canada, Air France, American Airlines, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Comair, Delta Airlines, Emirates Airlines, Ethiopian Airways, Etihad, IAG Cargo, Iberia Airlines, KLM, Lufthansa, Qantas, Qatar Airways Singapore Airlines, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, and WestJet in shunning the transport of some or all hunting trophies. This is rapid and extraordinary movement in the corporate sector, and a recognition by these carriers that their passengers, almost to a person, want to see and protect wild animals, rather than to shoot them. These wildlife watchers, now keenly aware of the havoc and cruelty created by trophy hunters, recognize that globe-trotting sportsmen are robbing African nations of some of their most majestic and imperiled creatures.
These corporate announcements come as the world condemns the broader crisis of trophy hunting in Africa – celebrities from Kesha, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Ricky Gervais, and even Norman Reedus (who so lethally wielded his crossbow in The Walking Dead) to politician-celebrity types including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Newt Gingrich have condemned the bloodthirsty killing of Cecil. Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson today posted a powerful piece rebutting the trophy hunters’ fallacy that they need to kill animals to save them, writing that “[t]hose defending these unsustainable hunting practices should take a long-term view. We know that elephants and rhinos (and surely lions, too) – if left alive – have a lifetime economic value that can go into the millions.”
USA Today tells trophy hunters to “consider trading your weapons for cameras. That way, you can bring home photos instead of heads, along with the satisfaction of sparing the lives of beautiful creatures.” The New York Times said the incident should prompt some soul-searching among hunters who pursue African game,” while The Chicago Tribune noted that “the airlines’ stand will give hunters pause about killing big-game animals that are in dwindling populations.”
But The Washington Post correctly noted that “more than a temporary stop in hunting in one African country will be needed if threatened and endangered species are to be saved.”
The work is far from done. We very much need the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to place the lion on the list of protected species under the Endangered Species Act, for the Congress to act and pass the CECIL Act, and for outlier airlines and carriers to get on board with the campaign. Please tell these companies – chief among them, UPS and South African Airways – that there’s no place in the 21st century for airlines carrying the carcasses of Africa’s most precious natural treasures.
Years down the road, does any person really think the airlines will be doing much of any business shuttling people for global head-hunting excursions? The people who’ll be flying to Africa, with just a few exceptions, want to see the animals in the wild and leave them in the wild in one piece. They’re more than satisfied – in fact, elated — to leave the continent with a series of mental and digital image of the animals. They won’t be agents of terror, destroying families, depleting the creatures who manage to survive, and absconding with the few parts of disassembled animals they killed in their expensive act of larceny.