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Largest lion bone carrier, Singapore Airlines, stops cargo from South Africa

The largest airline exporter of lion bones from South Africa to Southeast Asia will no longer support SA’s bone trade from captive-bred big cats.

Following a recent internal review, which took into account “increasing concerns around the world” regarding the lion bone industry, Singapore Airlines said it would discontinue the carriage of lion bones as cargo.

In 2017 Singapore Airlines was the sole airline moving supposed lion bones from South Africa to Southeast Asia, according to the recent EMS Foundation and Ban Animal Trading report, ‘The Extinction Business – South Africa’s ‘Lion’ Bone Trade’.

Singapore Airlines cargo manager for Africa and the Middle East, Adil Nunis, confirmed that the company’s new position on the matter saying that “moving forward, SIA will not allow the carriage of lion bone shipments on all flights”.

The airline’s decision to distance itself from the damned industry will have far-reaching effects, especially considering a new analysis of global wildlife trafficking seizures in the air transport sector. The report, ‘In Plane Sight: Wildlife Trafficking in the Air Transport Sector’, produced by the Center for Advanced Defense Studies as part of the USAID Reducing Opportunities for Unlawful Transport of Endangered Species (ROUTES) Partnership, revealed the principal role airlines play in the endangered wildlife black market.

Singapore Airlines Cargo is the ninth largest international cargo carrier and a major link between SA and the East, specifically.

To date, 89 major airlines have signed the 2016 United for Wildlife Buckingham Palace Declaration, aimed at reducing the illegal trafficking of wildlife in general. The cargo of lion bone, however, is a legal practice in South Africa and thus would not affect the airlines’ oath to reduce ‘illegal trafficking’.

“Airlines play a major role in perpetuating the misery of wild animals caught up in international trade,” Michele Pickover, EMS Foundation Director, says. “Our research clearly shows that the legal trade is part of the illegal trade – they cannot be separated.

“Just because something is legal does not make it legitimate or justifiable. Airlines need to acknowledge their damaging role, proactively inform themselves of the facts and work much more closely with NGOs such as ourselves to ensure that their industry is conducted in a more ethical and transparent manner.”

Jon Godson, Assistant Director of Environment at the International Air Transport Association (IATA), says in the ‘In Plane Sight’ report that airlines are starting to recognize the need to combat wildlife trafficking and are stepping up as leaders in this global effort. Singapore Airlines’ decision not to support SA’s legal export quota of 1500 lion bone skeletons is just this – a step up.

For more, visit Conservation Action Trust.