The death of an “iconic” lion in Zimbabwe has prompted calls for an EU ban of the importing of lion trophies.
Cecil the lion, a famous tourist attraction in Hwange National Park, was found headless and skinned after being shot with a bow and arrow. The hunter, believed to be Spanish, allegedly paid a £35,000 bribe to wildlife guides so he could kill the animal.
MEPs and members of wildlife organisations have urged the EU to extend its existing ban of EU imports of lion heads, paws and skins from Benin, Burkina, Faso and Cameroon in February this year to protect threatened lion populations in Africa.
Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder, who has submitted a written question to the European Commission, said: "The shooting of Cecil the lion was tragic and cruel, but it has at least shone a spotlight on the absurdity of the current situation.
"Despite the number of lions across Africa plummeting in recent years, hunters are still allowed to import lion hunting trophies into the EU from several African countries.
"In countries where there is no recent and independent data on lion populations, including Zimbabwe, imports of hunting trophies into Europe must be immediately banned.”
Current EU rules mean that the importing of lion hunting trophies is only permitted in countries where hunting can be proved to be legal and sustainable. In some African countries, including Zimbabwe, it remains legal despite lack of scientific data on the number of living lions there.
Will Travers OBE, president of the Born Free Foundation, gave his support to a ban with a concern over the sustainability of lion populations: “The number of lions in Africa may now be as few as 25,000 – down by 50 per cent in the last thirty years. It is entirely possible that they will disappear completely from a significant number of their current range.
“Cecil’s tragic and meaningless destruction may just be the catalyst we need to take action to end lion trophy hunting.”
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