DOUG COLLIE brings you the story our rivals wouldn't touch!
Walter Palmer, the US dentist who has become a hate figure after shooting Cecil the lion with a bow and arrow in Zimbabwe is to be offered the chance to salvage his shattered reputation by an irate group of Borders council taxpayers.
Palmer, from Minnesota, has already slaughtered 43 wild animals in big game expeditions around the world. His trophy cabinet includes Paula the polar bear, Robbie the rhino, Laurie the leopard, Bobby the bison, Sammy the stag and Eddie the elk.
One of the hunter's unfulfilled ambitions is to bring down a massive elephant. But so far big game companies in Africa and India have been unable to find one large enough to satisfy Palmer's blood lust and sense of adventure.
Now Scottish Borders objectors to a multi-million pound project by their local council want to invite Palmer to realise his dream by leading a safari to the wilds of Tweedbank in search of Tapp Estry the white elephant. But time is short as conservationists at the local authority plan to splash out more than £5 million of public cash to provide the endangered species with a compound where Tapp Estry would become a tourist attraction and a figure of fun at the same time.
Not Just Sheep & Rugby has been told by one respected linguist that Tapp Estry is Swahili for 'Money's No Object'. Opponents of the project plan to launch an appeal to raise funds to offer Palmer a bounty to shoot the white elephant before it can be corralled in a lavish pen which is currently the subject of planning permission.
The site at Tweedbank is presently afforested and, ironically, is protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) approved by councillors in September 2006. The maximum penalty for illegal works affecting a protected tree is £20,000 although the general feeling is the local authority will find a way to by-pass or even circumvent their own TPO as the construction of Tapp Estry's enclosure would involve the felling of scores of the protected trees.
A spokesman for the protestors told us: "At this stage we cannot say whether the giant Tapp Estry is at large in those woods. But if he is then Mr Palmer would be doing us all a favour by knocking it off with his bow and arrow. We may consider asking the Royal Company of Archers to accompany Walter on safari."
It is understood a special export licence will be required from Scottish Government officials to allow Mr Palmer to take the white elephant's head and hide out of the country.
The spokesman for the group who want Tapp Estry exterminated commented: "Surely the head of a white elephant on the wall of Mr Palmer's trophy room would be the ultimate achievement. He might even be persuaded to hang up his crossbow for good, thereby reducing the threat to the earth's entire wildlife population."
After accomplishing his mission at Tweedbank Mr Palmer may be invited to head a second expedition into the dangerous Gala Policies to find and destroy Peter the panther. Several sightings of the black Big Cat have been reported in the Border Telegraph, although sceptics claim it may be the figment of editorial imagination during the so-called 'silly season'.
An unofficial spokesperson for the council who did not wish to be named said: "We may have slashed the budgets of all the essential services we deliver, but having somehow magicked well over £5 million out of thin air to pay for Tapp Estry's cage, nothing will stand in our way. The railroad is about to reach the deep south and we need a major visitor attraction if it is to have any chance of being profitable.
"Now that we are aware of the invitation being extended to Mr Palmer we may decide to rush the planning application through with undue haste. I believe it's already been decided not to bother with an environmental impact study despite Tapp Estry's status and the high landscape value of the habitat chosen for him.
"It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that snipers may be deployed on Broomilees Bridge by the Tweedbank roundabout to take out Palmer and his party should they decide to proceed with their safari."