Why won’t Britain ban import of lion trophies?

BRITAIN has failed to slap an import ban on lion skins – despite public outcry and the demands of campaigners.

There was international outrage four years ago when American dentist Walter Palmer tracked and killed a 13- year-old lion called Cecil with a bow and arrow in Zimbabwe.

Australia, France and the Netherlands have all banned the importation of any lion trophies amid growing public fury, while America banned hunters bringing in trophies from captive-bred lions. Britain, however, has continued to offer permits to hunters to import lion skins and heads as long as the trophy has been obtained from a ‘sustainable’ hunting operation.

Last December, this newspaper revealed how the number of lion body parts shipped into Britain had soared. And today I can reveal how this loophole can be exploited by hunters determined to flout the US ban. One of my undercover investigators recorded Adrian Sailor, a UK representative for Settlers Safaris in South Africa, explaining how a lion skin could be smuggled into the US via Britain by hiding it in a deer skin.

Sailor admitted the issue was ‘so hot, in the press and everything else,’ adding: ‘They want all the stuff done right.’

But to sidestep the US controls, Sailor suggested legally importing the skin via the UK, shooting a red stag in Scotland, then ‘you stick the lion skin inside the bloody stag… you just roll it all up, and just export it as a red stag. It’s a bit dodgy, but you know. It’s all folded over, rock hard, you can’t open it. It’s all salted and rock hard. I mean a lion’s a big thing, to get inside, but the [only] thing you can’t get in there is a skull.’

When confronted by The Mail on Sunday, Sailor did not deny making the suggestion but stressed that ‘no crime has been committed’ and that ‘everything is done legally’.

He said that he does not deal with anyone in the US, adding: ‘How will a lion fit inside a deer skin? Major size difference.’