Trophy hunting is essentially recreational big game hunting, a competition to see who can bag the most impressive, ornamental animal head. It's different from poaching because it's government regulated. However, the ethics of the 'sport' always loom large.
Here are some facts that might shed more light.
Warning: Disturbing images below.
1. More than 100 million animals are reported killed by trophy hunters each year.
The actual number may be much higher, as there are several unregulated trophy hunts that also take place. These kills go unreported.
2. Trophy hunting is one of the top four threats that lions face. The others are - habitat loss, loss of prey base and human-lion conflict.
Other related factors include deleterious effects due to small populations and climate change, inadequate regulatory mechanisms and weak management of protected areas. As of May 2014, approximately 18 countries in Africa allowed legal hunting of lions for trophies
3. Declines in lion populations in Africa have been a result of mismanaged trophy hunting.
Just over a century ago, there were more than 200,000 wild lions living in Africa. Today, there are only about 20,000 - 39,000 lions left. Compounding the problem just for the entertainment of the rich is deplorable.
4. Governments set quotas on trophy hunting. However, most countries have quotas set higher than current recommendations.
Basically, there's a set limit on the number of animals you are allowed to kill. However, these limits were made a while ago, and there's a desperate need for them to be updated to reflect the current scenario.
5. Contrary to inflated claims by safari clubs, trophy hunting is not critical to African economies.
Proponents claim trophy hunting provides millions of dollars to conservation and research efforts. This report however, shows that trophy hunting is far overshadowed by general African tourism.
6. The most expensive species to hunt are known as the Big Five: the lion, elephant, leopard, rhinoceros (both black and white) and Cape buffalo.
The big five refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot. It's not as much the size, but the danger and difficulty in tracking these animals. Out of all five, only the Cape buffalo is not endangered.
7. A 21-day lion hunt can cost anywhere from $52,500 to $70,000.
It's an expensive practise, and people like former US president George H.W. Bush have also been part of trophy hunting clubs. The entire thing follows a circle of elitism, and is supported by heavy lobbying.
8. Hunting clubs offer members awards for the maximum number of animals they kill.
Safari Club International offers its members the opportunity to compete to win nearly 50 awards for killing elephants, lions, rhinos, leopards, bears, ringed-horn antelopes, wild sheep, ibex, moose, and many other animals.
The whole practise is jarring and regressive, in spite of all the arguments for it. However, the issue, while barbaric, is also complex, and one that can't exactly be solved in a day.