The killing of Cecil the Lion is without doubt another PR disaster for the hunting industry, was illegal and distasteful for many people. However reporting has focused on people’s moral outrage and anger towards the hunter with little in the way of understanding how hunting promotes conservation.
Two blogs explain why lion hunting actually helps lion populations survive. The argument is made is that under international agreements (CITES), governments in Africa set sustainable harvest quotas and receive large sums of money from hunters which in turn funds conservation and species protection. Attracting rich hunters from the US and Europe ensures that local people benefit financially from the animals. The alternative for local people is to view the animals as a liability as they predate their livestock.
As a result, without hunting, the animals are more vulnerable to poaching. In Kenya where hunting is not allowed, we have observed crashes in populations of species whilst Zimbabwe has successfully protected the species. The recent case of Cecil the Lion, is seen as a case of bad industry practice and not a reason to shut down a whole industry that is supporting conservation.
From Diogo Verissimo and Nicki Rust this week: https://theconversation.com/why-killing-lions-like-cecil-may-actually-be-good-for-conservation-45400
From Terry Anderson at PERC, a 2013 post: http://www.perc.org/blog/putting-king-beasts-life-support