MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) -- Delta Air Lines had a major change of heart about shipping hunting trophies, announcing Monday afternoon that it would no longer accept lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo trophies.
As recently as May, the Atlanta-based airline had said that it would continue to allow such shipments — as long as they were legal. At the time, some international carriers prohibited such cargo.
The move comes after an American dentist killed a well-known lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe last month in an allegedly illegal hunt, setting off a worldwide uproar. The dentist, Walter James Palmer, lives in Minnesota, which is a major hub for Delta.
Delta is the only U.S. airline to fly to Africa. Several foreign airlines announced similar bans last week.
Delta would not answer questions from The Associated Press about why the decision was made now and how many hunting trophies it has shipped in recent years. The company only issued a 58-word statement noting that prior to Monday's ban, "Delta's strict acceptance policy called for absolute compliance with all government regulations regarding protected species."
Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry consultant, noted that the airline was probably responding to pressure following the news of Cecil's killing. The airline was the subject of a petition on change.org to ban such shipments.
"I don't think there was much of this shipment taking place, so there is minimal revenue loss and big PR gain for them," he said.
Officials with The Humane Society of the United States released a statement Monday, following the decision by Delta.
"Lions, elephants and the other species that make up the Africa Big Five belong on the savanna, not on the walls and in home museums of wealthy people who spend a fortune to kill the grandest, most majestic animals in the world. Delta has set a great example, and no airline should provide a get-away vehicle for the theft of Africa's wildlife by these killers," the statement reads.
The Humane Society of the United States is calling for all major airlines to adopt policies that prohibit the shipping of big-game trophies. Lufthansa and Emirates Airline already have similar policies in place.
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