An analysis of the UK’s proposed Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill and its impact on species conservation


In March 2023, UK MPs voted to support the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill which proposes a ban on imports of hunting trophies from over 6,000 species, and it is currently being debated in the House of Lords. The stated aim of the Bill is to support species conservation. To assess its likely impacts, a group of researchers led by the Department of Biology’s Dan Challender, and including WildCRU’s Amy Dickman and Darragh Hare, conducted an analysis of trade and species extinction risk. This was based on data from CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species.

The study’s findings reveal that trophies from around 115 animals covered by the bill were imported to the UK annually between 2000 and 2021. This represents less than 1% of the global trade in hunting trophies from CITES-listed species. In the period 2015-2021, ~80% of these were from species’ populations that are stable, increasing, or abundant. Trophy hunting was not found to be a major threat to any of the 73 species or subspecies imported to the UK since 2000, although for 9 species it may likely or possibly be a local threat to some populations. Conversely, trophy hunting has the potential to provide significant environmental and social benefits relating to at least 20 species. These include protecting land from conversion to agriculture; providing resources to prevent poaching; income and employment for local communities; and enhanced population growth for threatened species. Importantly, these social benefits include areas where opportunities for commercial tourism are limited.

The research team also assessed the quality of evidence and analysis used in the UK Government’s impact assessment of the proposed bill. They concluded that it had failed to adequately consider the benefits of trophy hunting to local communities, particularly its role in sustaining livelihoods. According to the researchers, the analysis indicates that the proposed UK Hunting Trophies Bill may cause more harm than good to the species it is intended to protect.

In view of these findings, the authors propose alternative options to regulate the international trade in hunting trophies of threatened species. These range from not altering current regulations to expanding them so that import permits are required for all trophies imported to the UK – enabling broader restriction within which only those that have a conservation benefit could be allowed. They also suggested a ‘Smart’ ban to prohibit import of trophies from operators that fail to operate sustainably or benefit local communities.

Contributing author Professor Amy Dickman added, “Assuming past trade is indicative of future imports, the argument that the bill will reduce pressure on many threatened species is unfounded. Other threats, notably unregulated hunting, poaching, and retaliatory killing are much greater for most species imported to the UK as hunting trophies.

The paper pre-print can be accessed here: