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UK lawmakers back ban on trophy hunting imports

LONDON (Reuters) - British lawmakers on Friday approved a ban on the import of animal hunting trophies covering 6,000 endangered species including elephants, rhinos and leopards.

Under existing rules, with the right paperwork those who travel abroad to legally shoot animals can bring back trophies to Britain in the form of body parts such as stuffed heads or horns.

While some scientists say trophy-hunting generates funds to help pay for wildlife conservation efforts, it is criticised by animal welfare campaigners who say it constitutes cruelty.

The proposed ban was passed by lawmakers in Britain’s lower house of parliament, with a minister from the government's environment department, Trudy Harrison, saying it was "time for change".

"Cecil, the lion, has not died in vain," she told lawmakers, referring to the lion which was shot by an American dentist in Zimbabwe in 2015 in a case that sparked global outrage. "We are sending a very strong message to the rest of the world."

According to official data, elephants made up 37% of British trophy-hunting imports between 2000 and 2020, with South Africa the top country from which trophies were imported to Britain.

Harrison acknowledged some criticism of the proposed ban.

"I do recognise that some of the income from trophy hunting has contributed towards the protection of habitat and the prevention of poaching, but to bring (back) the body parts of endangered species...is not the way forward."

The legislation will now pass to parliament’s upper chamber for approval.

(Reporting by Muvija M, Editing by Kylie MacLellan and Angus MacSwan)