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Hunter defends herself after photos with dead giraffe cause outrage

Big game hunter Tessa Thompson Talley defended herself after a backlash over photos showing her with a giraffe she killed on a hunt in South Africa.
by Scott Stump / / Source: TODAY

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An American hunter who proudly posed for a picture with a giraffe she killed in South Africa last year is defending herself after facing a wave of anger on social media from animal lovers.

Kentucky woman Tessa Thompson Talley killed a rare black giraffe on a legal hunt in June 2017 and posted celebratory photos on Facebook, which were tweeted on June 16 with an angry message by the South Africa-based Africland website.

"If our so called governments can't care for our wildlife then its time we stand up and responsibility of our continent, lands, resources and wildlife....share share share!" the site wrote in a follow-up tweet. "And lets have a united voice against pillage of Africa, it's the only home we have."

The pictures, which Talley has since deleted from Facebook, drew outrage from others, including comedian Ricky Gervais, who wrote on Twitter 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."

He later added in an expletive-laden Facebook post that he's "sick of trophy hunters trying to excuse their grim sport by saying they provide a service."

Actress Debra Messing called Talley a "disgusting, vile, amoral, heartless, selfish murderer."

Talley declined an interview with TODAY, but issued a statement defending herself. She said it was a legal, permitted hunt and the breed of giraffe she killed is not rare other than that it was more than 18 years old.

"This is called conservation through game management,'' she said.

She also found the criticism to be sexist.

"For all the people wishing death or even threatening death to me, this does nothing positive for your 'movement,' it only shows the world how lopsided your priorities are,'' she said. "The very same picture could have been posted, and are posted daily, of men with their trophies and not a word is said.

"It is by far women that hunt who catch more grief from the 'tolerant' and 'all loving' animal rights activists. It’s sickening to the majority of people how women are treated all over the world, except in the case of women hunters. You people call yourselves compassionate and caring, yet some of the most vile things have been directed at me and many other women hunters."

Paul Babaz, the president of Safari Club International, said hunts like Talley's help pay for conservation efforts.

"The money she paid to go on this hunt, it is going directly into the local community, it's going to benefit those animals because now there's an economic benefit,'' Babaz said on TODAY Tuesday.

Talley is the latest hunter to come under fire for posting photos of a kill in Africa. Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer faced an overwhelming backlash that resulted in him closing his business for several months in 2015 after he killed a beloved lion named Cecil during a hunt in Zimbabwe.

Idaho hunter Sabrina Corgatelli faced similar criticism in 2015 for her photos with a dead giraffe.

"I get that hunting is not for everyone, that’s what makes this world great is the differences,'' Talley said.

"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."

Follow TODAY.com writer Scott Stump on Twitter.

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