Trophy hunters may need to find another flight home, as South African Airlines (SAA) has announced a new ban on any wildlife trophies from their flights.
“Hunting of endangered species has become a major problem in Africa and elsewhere with the depletion to near extinction of wildlife that once roamed in prolific numbers. SAA has taken the step of banning all transportation of animals killed in hunting activity as a result,” said Tim Clyde-Smith of SAA.
According to TakePart, SAA made the decision after wildlife traffickers used the airline to attempt to smuggle ivory to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last month. The illegal goods were confiscated en route in Australia. Still, the new ban will apply to any wildlife trophies, including animals legally killed with proper regulatory documents.
“SAA will no longer support game hunters by carrying their trophies back to their country of origin,” said Clyde-Smith. “The vast majority of tourists visit Africa in particular to witness the wonderful wildlife that remains. We consider it our duty to work to ensure this is preserved for future generations and that we deter activity that puts this wonderful resource in danger.”
The debate over trophy hunting in Africa is rising as many of the continent’s most beloved mammals—including lions, elephants, rhinos, and giraffes—face precipitous declines. A shocking study in 2011 found that populations of large African mammals had dropped by 58 percent in just 40 years.
Trophy hunters contend that their hunts provide much needed conservation funds to governments and local communities living with wildlife, and helps keep wilderness protected. But many environmentalists say trophy hunting threatens already declining populations, disrupts animal communities, sends mixed messages to the public, and is simply immoral. The argument has ratcheted up in recent years as the poaching epidemic shows no signs of stopping across the continent with tens-of-thousands of elephants killed every year and over a thousand rhinos.
Target species range widely for trophy hunters, but include everything from crocodiles to caracals to baboons. Price also vary—depending on the company—but big game hunters can expect to pay tens-of-thousands of US dollars in trophy fees to kill an elephant or a male lion. But for a few hundred dollars you can kill an ostrich, duiker, or warthog—and it’s just around $50 for a trophy fee to shoot a vervet monkey or a porcupine.
SAA airlines is one of the largest on the continent and a member of Star Alliance.