Trophies back on board as South African Airways cans its ban

South African Airways has back pedaled on its three month old ban on the transportation of rhino, elephant, lion and tiger hunting trophies, quietly announcing on a “need to know” basis that they were back in business to handle the gory cargo.

Director of IFAW Southern Africa, Jason Bell, said: “In April conservationists and animal lovers around the world were applauding SAA for a principled decision to combat illegal trafficking of wildlife by putting an embargo on transporting certain hunting trophies. Now it appears the hunting lobby has prevailed in persuading the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to put pressure on the airline to withdraw its ban on transporting certain hunting trophies.”

SAA had implemented its embargo after its cargo division was fined by the Civil Aviation Authority for an incident in which hunting trophies were allegedly shipped to Australia falsely labelled as “mechanical equipment”.

In an internal advisory issued on Monday, SAA Cargo said that it was lifting the embargo after the DEA had “given us reassurance that additional measures will be put in place to ensure compliance with all the required permits and documentation”. The advisory was distributed on a “need-to-know” basis.

Bell added: “SAA has gone from being bold to bullied in three short months. As a parastatal company of the South African government, it is clear that the pro-use DEA have browbeaten SAA into backpedaling on their original decision – at a time when rhino poaching is completely out of control and the DEA is simply not making any headway in stopping it.

“An embargo removed any “grey area” between illegal and legal trophies. It quite simply ended trophies of rhino, elephant, lions and tiger from being transported by SAA at all. Illegal trafficking of wildlife is one of the world’s most lucrative criminal activities, valued at US$19-billion annually. It ranks among damaging and dangerous global crimes such as trafficking in drugs, people oil and counterfeiting.

“It’s disappointing that SAA has broken ranks with forward thinking world airlines such as AirFrance, KML, Emirates, Lufthansa, Singapore Airways and Qantas Air who have committed themselves to stopping illegal trafficking by not transporting trophies.”


For further information please contact IFAW:

Ally MacDonald; Communications Officer, IFAW UK, Email:; Tel: 0207 587 6725

Christina Pretorius, Communications Manager, IFAW Southern Africa, Email:, Tel: +27 82 330 2558