In an attempt to discourage big game hunting in South Africa, thousands of online activists are demanding Delta Airlines ban animal trophies from their cargo.
Encouraged by a ban on hunting trophies by South Africa's largest airline, animal activists are now pressuring Delta Airlines to follow suit.
As of Monday, over 40,000 people have signed a petition asking Delta, the only American carrier with direct flights to South Africa, and CEO Richard Anderson to forbid the transport of endangered animals on their planes.
Africa's largest airline, South African Airways, officially decided to kick hunting trophies off its flights in April, citing a mission of wildlife conservation. The move was largely prompted by the discovery of a crate of elephant tusks - deceptively marked as mechanical equipment - on an SAA flight bound for Australia. In a release announcing the embargo, SAA said it would make no exceptions on banning trophies, including for those holding a valid permit from authorities.
While activists have cited wildlife conservation as their goal, most experts say the legal hunting and transport of African animals, which is already strictly regulated, has minimal impact on endangered species. Poachers, who kill animals to sell their parts on illicit black markets, and habitat destruction pose far larger threats to African mammals' long-term survival.
Many biologists and conservationists believe that legal big game hunting can in fact aid in saving threatened animals. An American hunter who paid thousands to hunt a black rhino in Namibia recently came under fire by activists, but was granted a permit by the U.S Fish and Wildlife service to import his kill.
According to the USFWS, the hunt was managed in a way that it offers more help than harm to the conservation effort. Bans on hunting in Bostwana have also been criticized as misguided and even harmful to the overall wildlife population.
As of Monday, Delta has not responded to the petition or requests for comment.