E lephants cross the road in Hwange National Park, about 700 kilometres south west of Harare. (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP)

The killing of a huge elephant in Zimbabwe was confirmed Saturday by the national parks agency, which defended the legal hunt as a source of much-needed money for communities living near game parks.

Wildlife conservationists are livid about the shooting of an elephant said to be one of the biggest in Africa.

The elephant was killed by a “foreign client” in a safari hunting area bordering Gonarezhou National Park in southeast Zimbabwe, the national parks said in a statement Saturday.

The killing was legal but “unethical,” said Johnny Rodrigues, of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force.

The controversy over the elephant comes after the killing of a well-known lion named Cecil in July sparked international outrage. At least 40 elephants were poisoned by cyanide in the country’s biggest game reserve, Hwange National Park, earlier this month.

An armed ranger talks on his radio in front of a white rhinoceros at a park near Marondera, east of the capital Harare, in this September 22, 2014 file photo. (Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters)

The big male elephant was killed in the Malipati Safari area, where legal hunting channels funds to poor rural communities living near game reserves, the parks said.

“Such hunts go a long way in assisting communities in the surrounding area,” the parks statement said. “Communities will benefit from revenue generated from wildlife-based projects, including hunting in the area.”

The elephant was killed Oct. 7, and its ivory tusks weighed 121 pounds and 119 pounds, according to the parks.

“That’s a premium trophy,” said Louis Muller, president of the Professional Hunters and Guides Association. “Some big game hunters can come back to Zimbabwe every year for 30 years and spend up to a million dollars over that period with the hope of killing such an animal.”

Muller said the fact that the elephant survived long enough to grow such large tusks is evidence that Zimbabwe’s conservation efforts are successfully protecting elephants.

— Associated Press