The row in the Celebrity Big Brother house over Peter Burns' so-called "Kong Coat" has taken a new turn after police officers seized the garment.
Hertfordshire Constabulary, in whose force area the house is located, made their decision after receiving dozens of complaints from animal lovers.
The former singer has been infuriating his fellow housemates by claiming the coat is made out of gorilla fur. The trade in endangered animal parts was banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites). Britain is a strong supporter of the 160-country deal and signed up to the agreement in 1976. Because of their plight, gorillas are covered under Appendix 1 of the agreement, giving them the strongest level of protection.
Anyone found guilty of trading in gorilla fur faces up to five years in jail and an unlimited fine. A coat that was purchased before 1947 - predating the agreement - would be exempt.
A Hertfordshire Police spokeswoman said: "The coat in question has been handed across to police officers from Hertfordshire Constabulary. The coat will now be tested to determine its origin. Hertfordshire Constabulary will take positive action to investigate any allegation of criminal activity."
A spokesman for the show said: "We have passed the coat to police for investigation. Pete is aware of the situation."
The coat initially angered the glamour model Jodie Marsh, who lambasted Burns for wearing it. He hit back by taunting her that his suitcase was full of similarly exotic furs. He said that while he liked animals, "I like me better". Burns has been defiantly wearing the coat and telling housemates that it was given to him by a boyfriend.
The rural affairs minister, Jim Knight, warned last week that Burns could face jail if the coat turns out to be made from real fur. However, some experts believe the coat is made out of colobus monkey fur, which is also an endangered species and covered by Cites.
The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) welcomed the police action and said it had been encouraging supporters to vote Burns out of the house.
"Whether it's a gorilla coat, a mink coat or a fox coat, all animals suffer equally at the hands of the fur trade. When he does leave the house, we would like to show him footage of how these coats are made. Hopefully, we can educate him and persuade him to donate the coat to us," she said.
Gorilla populations are in serious decline and some populations have dropped below 300. Their plight has been exacerbated by conflict in the Great Lakes region of central Africa, particularly in Rwanda, where there is a domestic trade in bush meat.Reuse content