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Hunters Open Fire on Delta Over Trophy Ban

Black Rhinoceros cow and calf walking away in Etosha desert

A big game hunter has joined forces with several hunting clubs to challenge Delta’s prohibition against transporting big game trophies on its aircraft.

A rhino hunter filed suit against Delta Air Lines in a Dallas federal courtroom last week. The lawsuit brought on behalf of Corey Knowlton, a hunter who paid $350,000 for a trip to Zambia that included the legal right to hunt an endangered black rhino, claims the airline’s ban on hunting trophies is not only harmful to conservation efforts, but also illegal.

Also named as co-plaintiffs on the lawsuit are several sport hunting clubs, as well as a few conservation organizations in Africa, including the Dallas Safari Club, Houston Safari Club, Conservation Force, CAMPFIRE Association and the Tanzania Hunting Operators Association. The plaintiffs are not only claiming a financial loss as a result of the airline’s new policy, but also say the embargo on hunting trophies will be “catastrophic” for wildlife conservation.

The groups claim that conservation in Africa depends on the large permit fees paid by visiting big game hunters. In some cases, those fees include a guarantee that any trophies taken, be shipped to the hunters home country.

“Delta’s embargo threatens the tourist safari hunting industry’s entire user-pay, sustainable use-based conservation paradigm,” read a portion of court papers obtained by the Dallas Morning News. “It would be catastrophic to people and wildlife to eliminate the most habitat, prey base, operating budget revenue, and community incentives. Wildlife numbers will plummet. But this will occur if Delta continues to discriminate against the cargo of U.S. hunters.”

Delta implemented a ban on large game trophies in August 2015 in response to public outcry following several high-profile hunting scandals, including the controversial killing of Cecil the Lion by a Minnesota dentist. Delta’s fellow U.S. legacy carriers — American Airlines and United Airlines — also joined in a ban on shipping big cats, rhinos, buffalo and elephants as sports trophies.

Interestingly, Delta’s own announcement of the new policy may lend credence to the notion that the ban on shipping sports trophies might fall in a legal gray area. A portion of the brief announcement notes:

“Prior to this ban, Delta’s strict acceptance policy called for absolute compliance with all government regulations regarding protected species.”

The wording would seem to indicate that the new embargo is not in “absolute compliance” with all government regulations.

At the time of reporting, Delta had yet to comment on the lawsuit.

[Photo: iStock]

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9 Comments
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dpd82 October 22, 2015

rthib, it's not that simple. Excepting South Africa, game reserves that permit hunting are not fenced; they are part of a larger ecosystem that includes other community lands as well as national parks. Animals use all of those areas; they don't just live on the game reserve. So determining whether there are "too many animals" is actually rather difficult. In the U.S., hunting is pretty well regulated and animal censuses are more reliable than in sub-Saharan African countries in which government corruption is the norm. Governments claim to conduct censuses, but in some countries, Tanzania comes to mind, these censuses have recently been found to utterly false. The numbers were faked to cover up rampant poaching. Trophy hunting of lions, which are quite territorial, brings it's own set of problems. Male lions often form coalitions to hold a territory and the breeding rights to the females. If one is killed, the other(s) are less able to defend that territory. When a new male or males take over a territory and it's lionesses, they will always kill the cubs and drive off, if not kill, the subadults. The reason they do this is to bring the lionesses into estrous so that they can breed with them. Lionesses are also sometimes killed or injured as they try to defend their cubs. A lioness which is injured, will be less successful hunting for herself and is more likely to die of starvation. Subadult lions are also poor hunters and are likely to die of starvation as well. Male lions can of course, take over a pride by ousting the dominant male(s) themselves and cause the same results. Inserting trophy hunting into this complex system, throws it out of balance. I'm not sure where you got the information that trophy hunters who spend tens of thousands of dollars to hunt in Africa (and Asia) are limited to old or sick animals. They are looking for trophies; large, robust animals.

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rthib October 22, 2015

For those who are ignorant and wondering about killing these animals. Most of the reserves use hunters to kill old, sick or excess animals to preserve the species. For instance sometimes you have too many Bulls or Cows for the amount of land. So in order to protect the herd and also get more funding they sell the rights to hunters. It is mutually beneficial as the hunters get to legal hunt, the preserve gets a large amount of money to continue doing what they do and the animals get a better chance at living. Banning this is one of those things that makes people not at all involved feel good but actually hurts those they think they are helping, namely the animals and the preserve.

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corbetti October 22, 2015

It's a PRIVATE business - so f*$k off, you whiny sociopaths.

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weero October 22, 2015

Wait .. the guy wilfully killed a specimen of an endangered species and was out of the court as a free man? Why is he not serving 30+ years in a high security facility? Can there really be such a loophole in the legal system?

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bongodriver October 21, 2015

What next? Denied boarding to women in fur coats? Men in buffalo hide or other exotic skin boots? Due to their use of a taxpayer subsidized system and due to the fact the the aircraft are part of the civil reserve fleet they may be in a legally grey area as the article mentions.