South Africa, Namibia say airline ban on hunting trophies will hurt economy, conservation

Some African countries that allow hunting have criticized a decision by a number of international airlines to ban the transport of parts of animals killed in hunts.

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South Africa is disappointed at Delta Air Lines' announcement this week that it will no longer accept lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo trophies, the environment ministry said Thursday.

"The decision by Delta Air Lines to enforce a blanket ban fails to distinguish between the trade in and transportation of legally acquired wildlife specimens, and the illegal exploitation and trade in wildlife specimens," the ministry said in a statement.

South Africa has been struggling to contain a record surge in rhino poaching, and poachers have slaughtered tens of thousands of elephants annually for their ivory around Africa in recent years.

Neighboring Namibia also warned that a ban by airlines on trophy transportation will hurt its economy and conservation efforts that rely on revenue from hunters.

"This will be the end of conservation in Namibia," the Namibia Press Agency quoted Pohamba Shifeta, the environment and tourism minister, as saying.

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South Africa says that if hunters can't take their animal trophies home, a hunting industry worth nearly $500 million a year will suffer, affecting job creation and community development. In Namibia, more than 80 registered Namibian wildlife conservancies depend largely on funding from trophy hunting, according to the Namibia Press Agency.

"If conservancy members have no income, they will abandon their role in protecting the country's natural resources," Shifeta said.

"These anti-trophy hunting campaigns are very serious as many countries are joining the chorus now," Shifeta said this week. "It will also be uphill for the hunter if trophies are not to be shipped."

American Airlines and United Airlines announced a similar hunting trophy ban this week, though it is unclear how many trophies, if any, they have been carrying in recent years. Other airlines announcing bans include Air Canada, Air France and Qantas.

The bans come amid international outrage over an American hunter's killing of a well-known lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe.