Few things spark uproar like trophy hunting photos - now some want to change the narrative

In July 2015, American dentist Walter Palmer sparked global outrage when a photo was shared of him standing over Cecil the lion.

The majestic big cat, who was 13 years old, was the most popular visitor attraction at Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe until Mr Palmer shot him with a bow and arrow.

It is inarguably one of the most high-profile examples of the inevitable uproar whenever images of smiling hunters, posing with guns in front of dead animals, make their way on to the internet.

To many of us, trophy hunting is an inexcusable trade and an abhorrence that should be punished - a fate more than 140,000 people tried to force upon Mr Palmer by sending a petition to the White House.

But do those provocative images tell the whole story?

Jens Ulrik Hogh has hunted in Africa more than 40 times, and thinks it's time to change the narrative.

Speaking to Leah Boleto on the Sky News Daily podcast, the hunter said while he understood why many observers found such photos "problematic", they had given hunting itself an unfair reputation.

"It's very counterintuitive to understand that hunting is beneficial for, say, the black rhino population, because the black rhino is listed as critically endangered," he said.

"But in fact, the only two countries in the world with a rising population of black rhino are Namibia and South Africa.

"And coincidentally, they are also the two countries in the world that allow very limited, and very harshly regulated, hunting of black rhinos."

'We should be proud'

Maxi Pia Louis is a community leader working in conservation in Namibia.

She told the Sky News Daily that trophy hunting does in fact support their efforts to protect species like the black rhino and elephants.

"It's a pillar in terms of income that is generated for our GDP - it's the third-largest," she said.

"Those funds coming in, they contribute quite heavily to some of the work we are doing to try and conserve wildlife in those areas, but also making sure there is motivation for people to manage those resources."

She believes her country should be "very proud" of its approach to elephant hunters - there are 24,000 elephants now, compared to around 7,000 in the 1980s.

It's a stance that will no doubt prove difficult to understand for many in the UK, where a prospective ban on trophy hunting imports returns to the House of Lords for debate next month.

Time to consign hunting to history?

Henry Smith, the Conservative MP who put the ban forward, told the Sky News Daily body parts from endangered species should no longer be imported "just for some sort of sick display".

"We're not telling countries in Africa how to run their conservation efforts," he insisted. "[But] I'd say there's very little evidence to suggest that fees from hunting trophies go back into African communities.

"If an animal is endangered and on the brink of extinction, then it seems very strange to me that you would kill that animal to conserve that animal."

Wildlife expert Professor Amy Dickman, from the University of Oxford, is sympathetic to Mr Smith's stance - trophy hunting can look "horrible", she admits.

But the reaction to images like those shared by Mr Palmer almost eight years ago can do more harm than good.

"Saying we must ban it, what you're very likely to have is those areas get less economically valuable, people convert them maybe to farmland, cropland, livestock keeping - then people will snare lions, will poison them," she said.

"No one will see those pictures on the front of the Daily Mail, but we will see them in the field. And those deaths are horrifying and far worse in terms of conservation and welfare, actually, than most trophy hunting deaths."

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Nordic hunter Hogh describes himself as an animal lover, but also a man who enjoys the hunt.

To ensure his hobby remains "sustainable", he wants hunters to think again about the images they share online.

"We go out hunting because we really enjoy hunting," he said.

"I don't think that any hunter goes out to say: 'I want to help conservation today.'

"But of course we would not do this unless conservation worked because we need our hunting to be sustainable, meaning that we can do the same next year. Our children will be able to do the same in the future."