Trophy hunters are travelling to Iceland to hunt up to 100 puffins before bringing their carcasses home with them.
Paying up to £3,000 for the trips to Iceland, hunters are killing the puffins legally, despite them being classed as an endangered species in 2018, according to reports.
Gruesome pictures showing proud hunters standing in front of scores of dead puffins have been shared by the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting.
They are now calling on Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers to ban hunters from importing their puffin trophies into the UK.
Spokesman Eduardo Goncalves is now warning the puffin is in danger of becoming extinct, with uncontrolled hunting cited as a leading cause in the species’ decline.
Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, he said: ‘There should be an immediate moratorium imposed before it is too late.’
He also called on CITES, the international animal trade regulation body, to add puffins to its list of protected species during its conference, which takes place next month.
According to recent figures, the puffin population in Iceland has dropped from seven million to just 5.4 million in the space of a decade.
Meanwhile, the Shetland island of Fair Isle has seen its puffin population halved from 20,000 to just 10,000 in the last 30 years.
Sir Roger Gale, chairman of the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, blasted trophy hunters, telling the publication:
Personally, I regard the whole practice as abhorrent.
I don’t believe in trophy hunting at all for any species. I don’t think there is any excuse for it.
I happen to be at the moment at least the leader of the UK delegation for the council of Europe where there are two at least Icelandic representatives and I will be discussing the issue with them and see what if anything can be done in Iceland.
I believe there is much more tourism to be generated by preservation and conservation rather than by killing puffins.
In 2015, puffins were listed at ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conversation of Nature, meaning they are at high risk of extinction in the wild.
Many of the birds being hunted in Iceland are used to serve food to tourists, having been part of the country’s unique cuisine for centuries.
Some MPs, including the Conservative Henry Smith, have backed the campaign to ban trophy hunters from bringing puffins back into the UK.
We have seen a huge decline in puffins especially along the West Coast [and] it is extremely distressing to see that a much-loved bird is being killed as trophies in Iceland.
We have a duty to protect this popular bird, and the Government should be doing all it can to end puffin hunting.
Zac Goldsmith, an animal rights campaigner and Tory MP added:
Puffins might not have the profile of elephants or rhinos, but they beautiful birds, which need our protection. It’s awful to think people are paying money to kill them and then bringing their carcasses back to the UK.
A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs said:
Puffins are one of the nation’s most iconic seabirds and, as with all wildlife, their protection is a high priority for this Government.
We take the conservation of species seriously and work with organisations such as CITES to agree tough global guidelines to protect animals at risk.
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Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining the LADbible Group team in 2017.