The British government announced plans on Friday to ban the import of hunting trophies from lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, buffalos, zebras, reindeer and other animals.
The ban was first proposed two years ago and was an election commitment. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it has the backing of the public.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said more animals than ever were threatened with extinction and the government was “appalled at the thought of hunters bringing back trophies”.
The ban, which Eustice called one of the toughest in the world, would protect endangered animals and support long-term conservation efforts.
Eduardo Goncalves, founder of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting, welcomed the ban but said that since the proposal was first made two years ago, around 300 trophies from endangered animals had been shipped to Britain.
The delay had led to many animals being “cruelly and needlessly killed”, Goncalves said. He added that “it is really imperative for the government to bring the Bill to Parliament as quickly as possible.” So far, no date has been set yet, he added.
If trophy hunters break the rules, they risk up to five years in prison.
Britain first discussed a possible ban on hunting trophies after the killing of the 13-year-old male lion Cecil in Zimbabwe in 2015, which caused international outrage.
Cecil was lured out of a protected area and shot with an arrow by Walter Palmer, an American dentist. Cecil was wounded and suffered for 10 to 12 hours before Palmer found him and killed him with a compound bow.
At the time, nobody was charged, and the hunt was found to be legal, but the public’s strong negative response paved the way for a possible ban.
“A UK’s hunting trophy import ban would send a clear message that first-world countries are turning their backs on this sick trade,” Audrey Delsink, wildlife director of Humane Society International/Africa, said.
“Killing wild animals simply to adorn homes as souvenirs is simply unacceptable,” she added. “We urge the UK government to introduce and implement the bill soonest”.
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