Hunter Tess Thompson Talley ignited a firestorm over her 2017 "dream hunt." (Photo: Tess Thompson Talley)
Photos of a female hunter from Kentucky proudly showing off the results of her “dream hunt” – a dead black giraffe in South Africa – have ignited a firestorm across social media after being picked up by a local African media outlet.
“White American savage who is partly a Neanderthal comes to Africa and shoot down a very rare black giraffe courtesy of South Africa stupidity,” read the June 2018 tweet, posted by Africa Digest. “Her name is Tess Thompson Talley. Please share.”
The controversial images, which were posted by a Kentucky woman identified as Tess Thompson Talley a year ago, show her standing proudly beside a dead giraffe bull along with the caption: “Prayers for my once in a lifetime dream hunt came true today! Spotted this rare black giraffe bull and stalked him for quite a while. I knew it was the one. He was over 18 years old, 4000 lbs. and was blessed to be able to get 2000 lbs. of meat from him.”
Trophy hunting is a legal practice in a number of African countries, including South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“The giraffe I hunted was the South African sub-species of giraffe. The numbers of this sub-species is actually increasing due, in part, to hunters and conservation efforts paid for in large part by big game hunting. The breed is not rare in any way other than it was very old. Giraffes get darker with age,” said Talley, in an email to Fox News.
She points out that the giraffe she killed was 18, too old to breed, and had killed three younger bulls who were able to breed, causing the herd’s population to decrease. Now, with the older giraffe dead, the younger bulls are able to continue to breed and can increase the population.
“This is called conservation through game management,” says Talley, who insists hers was not a “canned” hunt.
Prominent activist and Hollywood actor Ricky Gervais, on the same day Talley’s images went viral, tweeted that “Giraffes are now on the 'red list' of endangerment due to a 40% decline over the last 25 years. They could become extinct. Gone forever. And still, we allow spoilt c--ts to pay money to shoot them with a bow and arrow for fun.”
However, there is some debate of the “rarity” of the giraffe on Talley’s hit list.
“The giraffe in the photo is of the South African species Giraffa giraffe, which are not rare – they are increasing in the wild,” Julian Fennessy, Ph.D., co-founder of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation told Yahoo Lifestyle. “Legal hunting of giraffe is not a reason for their decline, despite the moral and ethical side of it which is a different story.”
Nonetheless, the images have spurred deep emotions among those opposed to the controversial practice.
“Shame on you to think your life is more than any other living creature and gives you the right to end its life! Who are you to place yourself above any other living creature,” one person tweeted. “I hope nature takes revenge on you!”
Others have vowed that “killing animals for fun is a sign of serious mental illness,” while others have referred to Talley as a “disgusting excuse for a human being” and a “spoiled wealthy brat with no conscience.” She was also referred to as a “disgusting, vile, amoral, heartless, selfish murderer” by actress Debra Messing.
However, the self-described passionate hunter is hardly the first American to come under intense Internet fire in recent times for overseas trophy kills.
Nikki Tate, a 27-year-old lawyer and “ethical hunter” from Texas sparked outcry – and death threats – late last year after she posted pictures with her kills. But she also attested to receiving scores of messages of support too, being referred to as a “role model and inspiration” in the conservation arena.
And in 2015, Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer was internationally scorned after killing the famous “Cecile the Lion” near a national park in Zimbabwe.
"I get that hunting is not for everyone; that’s what makes this world great is the differences. But to make threats to anyone because they don’t believe the way you do is completely unacceptable. If it was any other belief that was different, threats and insults would be deemed hideous. However, for some reason it is OK to act this way because it’s hunting," Talley wrote in her email.
Meanwhile, in the United States, the issue of trophy hunting abroad remains a controversial one legislatively as conservation and welfare groups are banding together to encourage the Trump administration to reject import permits for South African lions.
Under a new process instituted in March this year, trophy hunters are able to provide the U.S government with information confidentially rather than giving public notice in their quest to obtain an import permit, raising questions over the legalities how the kill was carried out, and whether or not mostly illicit practices such as “baiting” were used, violating the ethics of “fair chase.”
Big-game hunters appointed by the Trump team to assist in the re-writing of federal rules pertaining to the importing of heads from African elephants and lions last week defended the trophy hunting practice, contending that threatened and endangered species would go extinct without the anti-poaching programs financed in large part by the hefty fees wealthy Americans pay to carry out the souvenir slaughters.
Where the president himself now stands on the matter, however, remains unclear.
“Big-game trophy decision will be announced next week but will be very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of Elephants or any other animal,” he tweeted in November.
Hollie McKay has been a FoxNews.com staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay