In theory, the idea of generating so much money for conservation is fantastic. But it is difficult to say if money actually goes back to communities or conservation. This can be very hard to monitor and there is a current lack of data on this. In poor countries with weak governance there is a lot of opportunity for corruption.
Although there are success stories (such as the white rhino), this is not the case for all species. Lions in particular are declining all over Africa and several studies, for example in Tanzania, have shown trophy hunting to be the main cause. Management of lion trophy hunting may need further research with some factors unique to lions. For example, the removal of males may cause high turnover within prides resulting in more infanticide (new males kill infants when joining a pride to remove offspring that do not share their genetic make-up and to bring the females into oestrus again more quickly).
Careful management is also easier said than done. It can be hard to define quotas, especially when exact numbers of existing animals may not be known. Quotas that seem conservative may actually be detrimental to the population, for example, in species where the males provide paternal care.
Even with conservative quotas, there may be evolutionary implications to trophy hunting. Hunters tend to target the largest, most impressive looking animals and problems can arise when these factors are actually traits that can be inherited. A study on bighorn trophy rams found that over a 30 year period, body weight and horn size declined significantly. Constant removal of the largest kodiak bears in Alaska for hunting means that they have also become smaller over time. Behavioural changes have also been observed in kodiak bears; some males have become so wary of humans that they change their usual salmon fishing behaviour.
Simply, one of the main arguments against trophy hunting is just that it is unethical, morally offensive and gives out the wrong message. How can wildlife organisations tell us that species need to be conserved whilst supporting the hunting of those exact same animals? Hunters that appear to flaunt their kills, such as Melissa Bachman, are met with widespread outcry and petitions.
There are also several approaches to trophy hunting that generate even more bad feeling and controversy. Captive hunting, or ‘canned hunting' is becoming more popular and describes the process of breeding animals (generally lions) in captivity specifically for hunting. There is little thrill in the chase as these almost-tame animals are ushered into small enclosures where a hunter waits for them. Using a rifle or, in some cases, a crossbow, the hunters pick off the animal, who has nowhere to hide. Some reports suggests that animals raised in this way are so used to human contact, they actually approach the hunters looking for food; an upsetting image for any animal lover.
The middle ground