Photographic safari guide Steve Taylor will often bring clients to Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, and it’s a place he says he knows like the back of his hand.
Lions roam freely inside the park, and as long as they remain inside its boundaries they are protected from trophy hunters.
It’s when they step outside of the park that they could be at risk, and that is exactly what happened earlier this month when Cecil the Lion’s son Xanda was shot and killed, the Telegraph reported.
“For us guides in the field in Zimbabwe. I’m not a hunter," Taylor, who grew up in Zimbabwe and now owns Askari Safaris, said. "I think that I couldn’t shoot a lion now unless it was in self defense."
Trophy hunting received global attention two years ago when Cecil was shot and killed by an American trophy hunter.
Xanda suffering the same cause of death now has animal rights advocates condemning the event and reminding everyone that trophy hunting is still in practice.
Taylor is in the heart of the controversy, and though he does not hunt himself, he is a supporter of trophy hunting as long as it is done legally and ethically.
“It’s tough for people on the West to understand, you know, when you’re living with wildlife it sounds glamorous," he said.
"But if you are living on the poverty level and you have one acre of corn and an elephant comes in and destroys that crop, you are going to starve to death unless someone supplements it or pays you. And that’s where the money from hunting goes."
It was estimated in 2015 that Zimbabwe earns about $20 million in revenue each year from trophy hunting licenses, according to an official at the Law Library of Congress.
About 70 percent of the money brought in from professional hunters goes towards wildlife conservation and anti-poaching efforts, The Telegraph reported.
Taylor said that he has seen the money used for things like building schools and putting up electric fences.
The money is collected and dispersed by a Zimbabwe community-based program called Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (Campfire).
The program sells the hunting licenses and disperses the money to local communities, but opponents of trophy hunting are quick to question whether the money ever goes where it is supposed to.
"It sounds like a good idea in terms of contributing to local communities and that’s definitely something that we believe is necessary for conservation, contributing to local communities so that they see the value in wildlife, but we don't think that the numbers actually add up with respect to trophy hunting making that contribution," said Anna Frostic, senior attorney for wildlife and animal research at the Humane Society of the United States.
Zimbabwe was rated by Transparency International in a 2016 study as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, with a score of 22 out of 100, with 100 meaning no corruption and zero meaning highly corrupt.
Frostic says this low rating is why she has concerns about the African country’s “ability to govern a trophy hunting system and ensure that dollars are actually going to the local communities that deserve them.”
The U.S. is also still waiting for proof of trophy hunting's benefits. America listed African Lions as an endangered species in December 2015, requiring hunters to have a permit before they are allowed to import trophies of the animal in to the U.S.
A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) spokesperson told Circa in a statement that before permits are given to American trophy hunters in Zimbabwe, the agency is waiting to see "“whether import of sport-hunted trophies contributes to the conservation of lions and meets the criteria of the Endangered Species Act."
Before Xanda’s death on July 7, he was being studied by Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit. The 6-year-old lion was wearing a GPS collar that had been fitted by Dr. Andrew Loveridge, a WildCru research fellow and project leader.
Xanda wandered outside of the park when he was shot and killed, and as soon as Richard Cooke of RC Safaris, the professional hunter on the shoot, noticed the lion had a collar he turned him back over to researchers, The Telegraph reported.