JOHANNESBURG — In 1909-10, Theodore Roosevelt headed a Smithsonian hunting and trapping expedition in Africa that included colleagues who prepared the wildlife he killed for shipment back to America. The former U.S. president and his son, Kermit, shot hundreds of animals.

“Really, I would be ashamed of myself sometimes, for I felt as if I had all the fun,” Roosevelt later said. “I would kill the rhinoceros or whatever it was, and then they would go out and do the solid, hard work of preparing it. They would spend a day or two preserving the specimen while I would go and get something else.”

But Roosevelt also advocated “a happy mean” between hunting and preserving wildlife sanctuaries, foreshadowing today’s debate on hunting that has become more polarized.

A global outcry erupted after a U.S. dentist killed a well-known lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe last month in an allegedly illegal hunt. Zimbabwe authorities on Sunday reported another allegedly illegal lion kill involving a different American in the same area in April.

Many big-game hunters believe that what they do is a legitimate sport, conserves wildlife by funneling funds back into game reserves and can be the ultimate personal challenge in a natural setting.

“Hunters are normal, living, nature-loving people,” said Adri Kitshoff, CEO of the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa. “They’re not bloodthirsty killers.”

Some 7,600 foreign hunters traveled to South Africa in 2013, more than half of them from America.

Numerous slick websites tout hunting tours. Martin Pieters Safaris describes the suspense of a leopard hunt:

“In the shadows you wait as silent and as quiet as the dark night … this is what it is all about sitting motionless a mere 60 yards from your bait, waiting for your chance, knowing that even though you have done everything right, he still might not come, that is leopard hunting!”

Critics say the Zimbabwe cases points to wider irregularities in the trophy-hunting industry..

Minnesota dentist Walter J. Palmer lacked authorization to kill Cecil the lion, according to Zimbabwean authorities who will seek his extradition.

King Juan Carlos of Spain made an elephant hunting trip to Botswana in 2012 at the height of Spain’s financial crisis. Word got out after he was injured, and his reputation plummeted. The king, who abdicated in 2014, apologized for the trip.

In “African Game Trails,” Roosevelt called himself a “hunter-naturalist.”

“Game butchery is as objectionable as any other form of wanton cruelty or barbarity; but to protest against all hunting of game is a sign of softness of head, not of soundness of heart,” Roosevelt wrote.

In recent years, poachers have killed tens of thousands of elephants annually to meet demand for ivory in Asia. In South Africa, home to most of the world’s rhinos, more than 1,200 were reported poached last year for their horns. Lions are designated as vulnerable on an international “red list.”

Brent Stapelkamp, a wildlife researcher, said some hunters in Africa try to locate and kill their quarry as quickly as possible, in contrast with old-style safaris that could last months.

“They’re here for the trophy more than the actual experience,” Stapelkamp said.

But for some, it is also about the experience.

“You cannot describe a wild lion’s roar,” Ernest Hemingway wrote in “True at First Light.”

“You can only say that you listened and the lion roared. It is not at all like the noise the lion makes at the start of Metro Goldwyn Mayer pictures. When you hear it you first feel it in your scrotum and it runs all the way up through your body.”