Merle's hunter, a semi-automatic weapon over his shoulder, definitely didn't appreciate my question.
We were in Boma in South Sudan, near the border with Ethiopia, some of the most remote deserts on the continent.
During the brutal war with the North, which continued from the early 1980s to 2005, both countries had wiped out much of the wildlife to supply their fighters and raise money. This war is now over, but the slaughter with wild animals has continued.
Zebra, giraffe, elephants, white-winged cob (antelope species) – all considered fair game.
"Look," he said, clearly irritated, pointing to my belly, and then his, "you're fat. But I'm weak. If you were weak like me, then you would shoot and eat animals."
I think about this conversation often. [1
CITES is the contract that governs the international trade in endangered wildlife products – trade worth billions.
The most controversial issue for discussion is the trade in ivory.
There is currently a ban on international trade in ivory; the last one-off sale was authorized in 2007.
And there is a serious and growing rift in the issue among African countries.
The countries of East and North Africa wanted to continue the ban and further protect the continent's elephant population – they are supported by many western countries and environmental groups.
The South African countries insist on the sale of their valuable ivory stocks.
"Tell me, why would you have an asset that has no value? This is the main question. If humans are to care for our wildlife, there must be value attached to it. Otherwise, we're sitting on a delayed bomb with a delay. ", said Kizo Mokayla, Botswana's environment, wildlife and tourism minister.
We were there to report on the resumption of elephant hunting in Botswana, a move strongly criticized in the West. Mokaila didn't have much time for environmental groups abroad.
"It's good to be a critic from the comfort of your home," he said.
The point he was trying to make – much like Merle's hunter – was that this perspective was important in the conservation debate.  A tourist photographing a herd of elephants from his Land Rover to share on Instagram has a very different experience than a farmer tweaking his crop from a rough bull elephant the size of a truck.
The governments of South Africa point to their relatively stable populations of elephants and say that ivory sales will benefit people and preserve profits.
Others claim that it is not so simple.
"I do not accept the argument made by Botswana and others. Ivory sales have never been used by local communities in the past. This will not be of any use to them in the future. It's just a big lie, "says Paula Kahumbu, a well-known Kenyan conservationist.
She also claims that the picture of elephant numbers across the continent is even worse. poaching in the state, environmentalists say between 2007 and 2014, the number of elephants in the savannah dropped by at least 30%, according to the remarkable Big Elephant Census published in 2016.