05/08/2015 15:06 BST | Updated 05/08/2016 06:12 BST

UK Looking At Whether To Ban Importation Of Legally-Hunted Animal 'Trophies'

The UK is looking "very carefully" at whether to ban legally-hunted animal "trophies" being brought in to the country following the outcry over the slaughter of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, environment minister Rory Stewart said.

Mr Stewart highlighted the issue as he announced a £5 million fund for initiatives which tackle the "barbaric" illegal trade in wildlife that threatens species such as rhinos, tigers and elephants.

The Government money will support schemes around the world which help strengthen law enforcement against poachers, reduce demand for illegal products such as elephant ivory and rhino horn, and help communities develop sustainable livelihoods without targeting wildlife.

Mr Stewart said that Britain had a role in "supporting and listening to" governments trying to stop big-game hunting, rather than "lecturing" them on what to do.

Public outrage over trophy hunting exploded last month after it emerged an American dentist, Walter Palmer, had paid 50,000 dollars (£32,000) to track and shoot Cecil, a lion that was being studied by conservationists and Oxford University.

Speaking at London Zoo, Mr Stewart condemned the "horrifying situation", saying Cecil's slaughter was "an illegal action, a disgusting action" and "one that we completely condemn".

Mr Stewart said that certain countries carried out legal "trophy hunting" on the advice of conservationists who believe it is one of the best ways of encouraging people to get involved in conservation and protection of wild animals.

Asked whether the UK government was happy for legally-hunted "trophies" to be imported to the country, he said: "We are looking very carefully at that. We are discussing carefully with the public, we are discussing carefully with other countries, but this has to be international.

"This isn't, I believe, about some short-term responsibility. It is about thinking about the interests of the animals, and about making sure that we have trust in the relationship, particularly with African countries going forward, which are going to save those animals."

He added that moves to stop big-game hunting needed to be led by African countries, saying: "Conservation, in the end, has to work with the countries in which the animals are located.

"We are working here from Britain, but the best way we can do this is by supporting African countries, supporting the countries where the animals are and listening to those governments.

"So it isn't really a question of us lecturing, it is a question of us supporting, because what really matters is conserving those animals for the long term, and we will only do that with the political support from those countries."