Trophy Hunter Faces Backlash After Killing Rare Black Giraffe

Photos of a Kentucky hunter proudly showing off the results of her "dream hunt" — a lifeless black giraffe — in South Africa, have reignited a firestorm across social media.

The photos were picked up by an obsure African media outlet, AfricLand Post, which calls her an "American savage" and alludes to her "stupidity" in its tweet attached to the photos.

"White American savage who is partly a neanderthal comes to Africa and shoot down a very rare black giraffe courtesy of South Africa stupidity," the June 2018 tweet reads. "Her name is Tess Thompson Talley. Please share."

Actress Debra Messing called Talley "an ugly, vile, soulless piece of garbage" and other animal lovers are just as outraged.

Actor and comedian Ricky Gervais tweeted, "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—s to pay money to shoot them with a bow and arrow for fun."

"It's shocking that anyone would take joy or pleasure in killing a beautiful and graceful animal like a giraffe," said Iris Ho, who tracks trophy hunting at Humane Society International.

Talley, who originally posted the photos after her hunt last year, is pushing back against critics, telling CBS News that she killed the old bull giraffe to prevent it from attacking younger giraffes.

"This is called conservation through game management," she said in a statement. Talley added that the giraffe she killed was more than 18 years old and "beyond breeding age, yet had killed 3 younger bulls... Now that giraffe is gone, the younger bulls are able to breed."

Paul Babaz, president of the hunting advocacy group Safari Club International, said Talley "was hunting in South Africa and giraffes are legal to hunt in South Africa." Babaz said that the trophy fee for a giraffe is about $2,000 to $3,000 per animal and that money from legal hunting helps support the local community and helps fight against illegal poaching, which puts big game animals at risk for extinction.

"Without [legal hunting]...the poachers will come in and kill the animals indiscriminately, which is very unfortunate," Babaz told CBS News.

Talley’s giraffe photos were originally posted on her Facebook page last year, Fox News reports. She wrote: “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.”

The giraffe Talley killed was a South African giraffe, a subspecies whose population is actually up 167 percent since 1979 to more than 21,000 — but the giraffe population overall has declined as much s 40 percent, CBS News reports.

“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.”

Ho argues that wildlife tourism is more beneficial to both the animals and African communities than trophy hunting.

"U.S. imports, you know, almost 4,000 giraffe trophies for the last 10 years," Ho said. "Probably every day there's a giraffe being killed and imported into the U.S. as hunting trophy."

Trophy hunting is a legal practice in a number of African countries, like South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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Still, the images have spurred a deep debate on social media among those opposed to the controversial practice of trophy hunting.

“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!”