Lions are an iconic species that deserve our best protection, and I am glad that the UK Government is committed to conserving the world's wildlife. The UK is a leading participant in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which is reviewing the protection granted to lions.
The killing of the Zimbabwean lion known as 'Cecil' was a particularly distressing case. The Africa Minister, Grant Shapps, wrote to the government of Zimbabwe to call for our two countries to work together to promote lion conservation.
I know there have been serious concerns raised about African lion hunting trophy imports, which is why I strongly welcome the UK's agreement in principle with other EU member states to introduce stricter measures. I was also pleased that in 2012 the UK funded a conference in Johannesburg to consider conservation of the African lion with other interested countries.
I know there are some very strong moral feelings on this issue and some people object to trophy hunting on principle. That said, some have argued that properly managed, legal and sustainable trophy hunting can play a part in species conservation efforts, providing an important source of funding for some countries. That's why the Government has opposed blanket import bans in all cases.
As part of its efforts to tackle the illegal wildlife trade more broadly, the Government hosted and led the London Conference on Wildlife Trafficking, where over 40 countries adopted the London Declaration in an effort to save iconic species from being poached to the brink of extinction. It has also set up the £13 million Illegal Wildlife Challenge Fund to support projects in the developing world.