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DEA ‘disappointed’ about Delta Airline’s trophy embargo

DEA ‘disappointed’ about Delta Airline’s trophy embargo

Aug 4, 2015

6 Aug 2015 Press Release ~ The Department of Environmental Affairs is disappointed at the decision by US carrier Delta Air Lines (DAL) to ban the shipment of all lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo trophies worldwide as freight. The announcement was made on 3 August 2015.

The decision by Delta Airlines 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.

South Africa’s hunting sector is valued at around R6.2 billion a year and is a major source of South Africa’s socio-economic activity, contributing towards job creation, community development and social upliftment.

Until as recently as May the airline indicated publicly that it would continue to allow such shipments – as long as they were legal.

Last week, the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa welcomed the lifting of an embargo by the cargo division of South Africa’s national carrier, South African Airways (SAA), on the transport of legally acquired hunting trophies of African lion, African elephant, rhinoceros and tiger.

This was after SAA cargo noted it was satisfied sufficient measures were in place to ensure compliance with relevant legislation.

As one of the first signatories to the Convention on the International Trade in Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), South Africa has a strictly regulated hunting and trophy transportation permit system.

Our species conservation track record is well known on the global stage.

The Department of Environmental Affairs has put sufficient measures in place, including deploying Environmental Management Inspectors (EMI’s), commonly known as the Green Scorpions, at OR Tambo International Airport (ORTIA) since 1 April 2015.

The EMIs are also tasked with ensuring that Regulations relating to CITES and the Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) are monitored and enforced.

Since the announcement of the SAA embargo, the Green Scorpions have been working closely with other law enforcement agencies by conducting joint proactive compliance and enforcement operations at the ORTIA. Training sessions have also been facilitated with SAA cargo officers.

As part of joint operations between law enforcement agencies to prevent the circumstances that gave rise to the embargo being undertaken, the DEA has undertaken to, inter alia:

(i) Ensure that physical inspections at ORTIA are conducted on a daily basis to monitor compliance with NEMBA and its regulations.

(ii) Ensure that CITES export and re-export permits are endorsed only after physical inspection of consignments.

(iii) Ensure that the abovementioned CITES permits are cancelled after use.

(iv) Ensure that enforcement action is taken in cases of detected non-compliance with NEMBA and its regulations, CITES and TOPS regulations.

(v) Work in collaboration with other agencies such as Customs, SAPS, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), Department of Health and the Department of Home Affairs, to proactively detect illegal consignments.

(vi) Facilitate the further training of airline officers and cargo handlers, ACSA employees and other operators in the handling of wildlife consignments and the detection of suspicious cargo.

(vii) Develop protocols for communication between the Green Scorpions, SAA Cargo and other operators to ensure the sharing of critical information and to enable quick reaction time when needed.

Importantly, the DEA will step up communications with exporters and importers, to ensure that they notify the department timeously of their intention to freight consignments, in order to arrange for physical inspections.

Through these measures the department has endeavoured to ensure that loopholes that may have existed in the current regulations, have now been closed.

The department encourages airlines and shipping companies who still have embargoes in place, to reconsider their positions.

We value the cooperation of our airline partners and stakeholders and look forward to a mutually beneficial future relationship as we work to rid the legal, well-regulated industry of unscrupulous operators.

Editor’s Note: Delta is just one of several major airlines that have indicated they will no longer be transporting hunting trophies from Africa, after a global social media backlash saw the killing of Zimbabwe’s iconic Cecil the Lion as a top news story for several days. While neither South African Airways (SAA) – which had just lifted its ban on hunting trophies – nor the DEA responded to reader comments on their Facebook pages, it was apparent that people are certainly indicating that they will not support airlines that carry hunting trophies. The concept of “legal” and “illegal” hunting trophies is well understood by the conservation communities, but it appears that social media sentiment certainly didn’t distinguish between the two after the death of Cecil.

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