Global aviation giant, Emirates Airlines, has sent shock-waves through the South African hunting industry after it became the second major airline to place an embargo on the transport of elephant, rhino, lion and tiger hunting trophies in less than a month. The embargo becomes effective on Friday 15 May, a spokesperson for Emirates has confirmed.
Throwing down the hunting trophy gauntlet
“This audacious move by SAA and its decision makers needs to be commended. SAA is a major stakeholder in Africa’s tourism industry and has taken a positive, proactive and strategic decision to help conserve our rich and diverse natural heritage” Greenwood said.
The Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA), whose outfitters and members make arrangements and apply for hunting permits on behalf of foreigners, said it would be attending to the matter urgently after receiving a letter notifying it of the SAA Cargo embargo.
Unlike South Africa Airways, Delta Airways which is said to be the main transporter of hunting trophies out of SA, has zero restrictions in place according to Safari Cargo Services.
Delta accepts hunting trophies
In a carefully-worded statement to traveller24, while avoiding answering a list of questions, Delta media officer Lindsay McDuff gave traveller24 a standard-form statement which read, “Delta accepts hunting trophies in accordance with all US domestic and international regulations, which prohibits the possession of trophies or other items associated with protected species.
“Customers are required to produce detailed documentation of trophies to US Customs and Border Patrol officials as their trophies undergo inspection”.
Vulnerable wild animal populations vs US hunting lobby
Targeted by thousands of hunters from abroad who flock to Africa for the thrill of the kill and the opportunity to export the trophies to hang on their walls, populations of these four species are now universally recognised as threatened and endangered, due to unsustainable hunting and rampant poaching.
Recent seizures of ivory, rhino horns, lion and tiger body parts, illustrate how unscrupulous organised-crime syndicates using fake permits, false declarations, mis-labelled consignments and other nefarious methods including passenger couriers, have successfully by-passed security procedures through corrupt activities.
On April 5, Australian Customs and Border Protection Services seized 110kgs of ivory from the cargo of a SAA flight at Perth airport in transit to Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia, a major hub and trans-shipment point in the illegal ivory trade.
“In this particular instance, the shipment contained elephant tusks and was seized. We were issued with a Notice of Seizure” South African Airways spokesperson Tlali Tlali said. “We had to act swiftly to curb the problem of illegal transportation of animals”.
Trophy Hunting ban is a social responsibility decision
SAA’s Australasia country manager Tim Clyde-Smith went on record to say the ban was a social responsibility decision.
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.
Forensic investigator Paul O’Sullivan, former group executive for security at Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), applauded SAA for imposing the embargo on the CITES listed trophies.
“This is one of SAA’s greatest steps forwards in recent years. It’s an absolute fallacy that without hunts called legal hunts, the eco-tourism industry would collapse. This fake rumour has been propagated by so called pro hunters to pro-long the life of the “canned hunting industry” said O’Sullivan.
Underground Rhino Horn trading rooms
O’Sulliuvan discovered whilst investigating this massive Thai/Laotian smuggling syndicate, that the station manager for Thai Airways at OR Tambo Airport was allegedly the same person who facilitated the smuggling of Rhino Horns out of South Africa, feeding into the underground Rhino Horn trading rooms in South East Asia.
According to O’Sullivan the station manager known as KK was then moved by Thai Airways to a European position and has never been prosecuted.
It was Lemtongthai who organised the killing of more than 20 rhinos at North West hunting farms by using Thai escorts and prostitutes as pseudo hunters on behalf of Laotian Vixay Keosavang, possibly the most wanted person in the illegal wildlife trafficking in the world.
Does corruption lie at the heart of the hunts?
“Without those falsified records, hundreds, if not thousands of rhinos would still be alive today. These people have created a market in Asia for these products. If you want to know where the corruption is taking place, just look at where the rhino and lion hunts are going on, and that’s a fact. The hunting industry is rotten to the core” O’Sulliuvan said.
‘Falsified records means rhinos are paying the price’
“I want to go on record and say that most of the rhinos allegedly shot by foreign hunters in the North West Province, and Limpopo, were victims of the professional hunters association, whose members have falsified their records to enable the most heinous smuggling scheme this country has ever seen. This country and its rhinos are now paying the price.
“Members of the professional hunters association have engineered and facilitated the illegal hunting of CITES registered species such as elephants, rhinos, lions, the whole damn lot,” O’Sullivan said.
The captive-raised, lion hunting industry, more commonly known as canned lion hunting, is largely supported by PHASA hunters and outfitters. These captive-fenced and wilderness-deprived predators are bred specifically for the bullet, sometimes by the same owner/outfitter who sells them to the foreign hunters.
Is sustainable trophy hunting possible?
Denker stated that the illegal trafficking of wildlife products, especially elephant tusks and rhino horns, and unacceptable hunting methods such as canned lion and tiger shooting, are a worldwide concern by the conservation-orientated public.
“As such, the decision, based on actual abuse, has to be accepted. The onus now is on all stakeholders, inclusive of SAA, to see to it that actions, controls and regulations are put in place to prevent future abuse of the system, as transpired here, so that the ban can be lifted again. After all, it is of great concern that the confiscated ivory, which led to the drastic action taken by SAA, was on board one of their flights unbeknownst to the airline,” he stated.
He suggested that the hunting-fraternity unanimously condemn the unacceptable practice of canned-shooting, or as it is nowadays called “captive bred shooting”, and that conservation authorities all over the world implement regulations forbidding the artificial breeding of wild animals for the hunting industry.
“Only then can sustainable trophy hunting regain its rightful place as an important conservation tool to the benefit of wildlife and natural habitats,” Denker added.