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Judge Upholds Delta's Refusal to Ship Rhino Trophy

Texas hunter sues the airline for its refusal to transport remains of endangered African black rhinoceros he paid $350,000 to kill.

US District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn ruled that Delta Airlines is justified in its refusal to ship the remains of an endangered African black rhinoceros killed by Texas trophy hunter Corey Knowlton. The hunter paid $350,000 in January 2014 to Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism for a permit allowing him to kill the endangered animal, shooting the rhino four months later. Following the killing of Cecil the lion by Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer, Delta Airlines issued a “Big Five” ban in which it prohibited the transport of African lion, African elephant, African leopard, Cape buffalo, and white or black rhinoceros on any of its aircrafts. Knowlton—and other plaintiffs including the Houston Safari Club—sued Delta in October 2015 on the claim that the airline’s refusal to transport the remains of the rhino was interfering with “tried-and-true conservation strategy.” Judge Lynn ruled in favor of Delta’s ban, stating, “Because Plaintiffs are hunters or other parties who benefit from the hunting of the Big Five, Delta's ban negatively affects them, that impact does not mean Delta's decision is unlawful or actionable.”

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