Even Though Delta, American and United Stopped, UPS and FedEx Still Ship Animal Trophies From Africa

After a Minnesota dentist killed Cecil, a beloved lion from Zimbabwe, the sport of trophy hunting has come under scrutiny. In this so-called sport, wealthy hunters pay local guides to help them bag a prize specimen. In Africa, the big 5 are the most common kills –  African lions, African elephants, cape buffalo, leopards and rhinoceros. Cecil was a rare black-maned lion that was beloved at his home in Hwange National Park. He even wore a GPS tracking collar and was part of an Oxford University research study.

When news of Cecil’s death went public, three US airlines took the brave and thoughtful step of announcing they would not transport animal trophies. American, Delta and United have banned the transport of the big 5.  They join Lufthansa Cargo and Emirates SkyCargo who also ban these shipments. Hopefully, preventing a hunter from bringing their kill home will diminish this ghastly activity.

Now it is time for UPS and FedEx to do the same. At present, “Shipments of hunting trophies are still allowed by United Parcel Service, a UPS spokeswoman told The Washington Post on Tuesday, noting that the global shipping giant follows U.S. and international laws, not public opinion, in determining what it will and won’t ship.” FedEx won’t ship the entire carcass but will ship animal parts for taxidermy. ” FedEx spokesperson Jim McCluskey emphasizes that these specimens are obtained legally.”

But how do the companies know the animals or animal products were obtained in accordance with all international laws?The authorities in Zimbabwe are trying to extradite Dr. Palmer because they believe he illegally killed Cecil. They believe the lion was driven out of the park to Dr. Palmer for the kill. The dentist responded by stating he relied on his guide to follow the laws and went into hiding. Yet Dr. Palmer has a history of illegally killing animals he wants for a trophy. In 2006, he illegally shot a black bear in an unauthorized zone and then lied about the location of the kill. He was fined and sentenced to one year of probation in 2008.

One of my proudest moments as a veterinarian was turning in an individual who was awarded jail time in Minnesota for abusing cats.  I believe Dr. Palmer deserves to lose his dental license for his clear lack of judgment and compassion.  Further, having failed to learn his lesson before, I believe he deserves to rot in a Zimbabwean jail for many years and I ask our government to extradite him as Zimbabwe has requested.

Conversely, I want to strongly applaud American, Delta, United, Lufthansa Cargo and Emirates SkyCargo airlines for halting the transport of trophy kills. These companies understand that limiting a hunter’s ability to bring home the dead animal will deter the practice.  Their actions also encourage the more enlightened practice of ecotourism to replace canned hunts. Now it is time for FedEx and UPS to follow their leads. Please ban the shipment of trophy animals now.


Gajanan, Majita. “Hunter who shot Cecil the lion illegally killed black bear in Wisconsin in 2006”. http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/aug/14/walter-palmer-illegally-killed-bear-wisconsin-cecil-the-lion.

Larimer, Sara. “While airlines ban hunting trophy shipments, UPS says it won’t bow to controversy” Morning Mix, The Washington Post, August 3, 2015.

Staff writer for Reuters, “Major U.S. airlines end trophy hunter shipments after Cecil Outcry”. www.reuters.com/article/2015/08/04/us-zimbabwe-wildlife-airlines-idUSKCN0Q90KT20150804.






Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.