|DALLAS – In the increasingly lucrative illicit global market for poached animal products, it is understandable that an airline/freight carrier does not want to be caught transporting illegal goods. However, this week, Delta, American and United airlines all declared an immediate and unconditional ban on transporting any trophy parts from five African species – lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo (also known as the African Big Five). This includes legitimate hunting trophies from legal, regulated hunts.
DSC is urging the airlines to reconsider. These bans are arbitrary and ill informed. There is a clear distinction between legitimately hunted trophies and poached game products, and there are already rules, laws and international treaties in place to ensure legal transport of hunted trophies. Import/export of trophies is administered by various government and non-government agencies – CITES and IUCN at the top of that list.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is the leading authority in the world on the importation of animals. Their rigorous process requires certain controls on international trade in specimens of selected species. “All import, export, re-export and introduction … has to be authorized through a licensing system:” (from www.cites.org).
Additionally, the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) is responsible for categorizing animals as “endangered, threatened, vulnerable,” depending on many markers. Lions, leopards, elephants are hunted legally under conditions determined by biologists and sanctioned by national and international governments. Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) populations are very abundant and are of “Least Concern.” (www.iucnredlist.org)
DSC Executive Director Ben Carter said, “Legal hunting for these species is a conservation tool that sustains and enhances, not threatens, populations of these animals. In fact, the inclusion of buffalo in the freight ban suggests that misinformation and emotion, not science or common sense, seem to be influencing this decision.”
The black rhino is critically endangered, but populations are increasing, thanks to conservation measures that include selective hunting. In 2014, a hunter paid $350,000 at the DSC convention for the privilege of a rare government-issued hunting permit, in accordance with CITES. The proceeds, 100 percent, went to the issuing government agency in Namibia to continue their conservation efforts. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allowed the import of this trophy after a public comment period.
The hunting industry in Africa alone, by some reports, puts as much as $200 million into the economy.
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