Hunter who shot dead rare black giraffe justifies the killing, says it was for conservation

A picture of American hunter Tess Thompson Talley with the 'rare' black giraffe she killed in South Africa last year has sparked outrage online

                            Hunter who shot dead rare black giraffe justifies the killing, says it was for conservation
(Source:Getty Images)

Although tragic photos from the hunting expedition first emerged on Facebook last year, the hunter was only recently identified by media outlets as 37-year-old Tess Thompson Talley of Kentucky. The photos show the notorious hunter standing proudly with a black giraffe she hunted, shot and killed in South Africa in June last year.

Talley wrote in a now-deleted Facebook post that the trip was a "once in a lifetime dream hunt" that became a reality. “Prayers for my once in a lifetime dream hunt came true today! Spotted this rare black giraffe bull and stalked him for quite awhile," she wrote. " I knew it was the one. He was over 18 years old, 4,000 lbs and was blessed to be able to get 2,000 lbs of meat from him."

If her gloating was ignored and swept under the mattress, you would not be reading about it right now. Thanks to Africa Digest, a newspaper in South Africa, that tweeted the hunter's trophy photos on June 16, Talley is now learning her lesson after bearing the brunt of severe criticism from animal lovers across social media.

Accompanying the Twitter post, which shows two pictures of Talley, were the words: “White American savage who is partly a Neanderthal comes to Africa and shoots down a very rare black giraffe courtesy of South African stupidity. Her name is Tess Thompson Talley. Please share”. 

Talley's allegedly inhuman post spurred a national debate on big-game hunting and whether it should be allowed to proliferate in South Africa. Among the African countries where trophy hunting is legal are South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, according to Fox News.

According to BBC, trophy hunting is a $2 billion-per-year industry in South Africa, where animals such as buffalo, elephants, and lion are often targeted.

"But you have to blame the African states for allowing this kind of tourism. It is simply immoral and wrong," one person wrote, commenting on the Africa Digest tweet.

The publication then hinted at the second part of its original tweet about Talley: "If our so-called governments can't care for our wildlife then its time we stand up and (take) responsibility of our continent, lands, resources, and wildlife. Share, share, share! and let's have a united voice against pillage of Africa, it's the only home we have."

Debra Messing, best known for her role in the NBC TV series 'Will and Grace', described Talley on Instagram as "disgusting, vile, amoral, heartless, selfish murderer.''

In an email to Fox News, Talley said the giraffe she killed "was the South African sub-species of the giraffe. The numbers of this sub-species are actually increasing due, in part, to hunters and conservation efforts paid for in large part by big game hunting."

Talley claimed in her email that the "breed is not rare in any way other than it was very old. Giraffes get darker with age," although having previously referred to the magnificent animal as "rare" in her original Facebook post.

Male giraffes get completely covered in black splotches by the time they reach the average age of 9.4 years, according to a 2012 research reported by LiveScience. Researchers found that giraffes get darker as they age, unlike human beings and gorillas, whose hair turns silver as they age.

By the age of 10, male giraffes become mature bulls and live an average of 14 to 16 years, with some living as long as 22 years. According to LiveScience, the main threat for giraffes is a pride of lions.

In a conversation with Fox News, Talley defended her actions by saying that the giraffe she killed was 18 years old and was causing severe problems in the herd. She claimed that the relatively old animal had killed three younger bulls who were still young enough to breed and so her hunt was justified.

"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,'' she said.

“This is called conservation through game management,” she added.

On the contrary, Julian Fennessy, co-founder of the organization Giraffe Conservation Foundation, told Yahoo Lifestyle that the giraffe in Talley's photo is, in fact, of a South African species that is not rare but increasing in the wild.

"Legal hunting of giraffe is not a reason for their decline, despite the moral and ethical side of it, which is a different story," Fennessy told Yahoo.

Social media is known to be ruthless towards hunting trophy photos. Back in 2015, Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer drew the ire of several animal sympathizers across the world for killing the beloved Cecil the Lion near a national park in Zimbabwe.

Interestingly, Talley is the third female hunter to go viral with the photo of a dead giraffe in the last couple of years. A 12-year-old Aryanna Gourdin posted an image to her 'Aryanna Gourdin — Braids and Bows' back in 2016.

The year before that, Ricky Gervais posted a photo of 41-year-old hunter Rebecca Francis lying next to a giraffe she shot and killed, drawing a major backlash across the internet.

The comedian, who is famous for his animal acitvism, tweeted about Talley as well, writing: "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."

In 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature classified giraffes as "vulnerable". The organization, which managees the list of endangered species across the world, reported that the number of giraffes in sub-Saharan Africa has dropped by nearly 40 percent since 1985.