American woman who killed giraffe says it was part of a conservation effort

An American hunter is pushing back against her critics, after photos of her next to a giraffe she killed in South Africa triggered outrage. Tess Thompson Talley told CBS News in a statement she killed the old bull giraffe to prevent it from attacking younger giraffes. She said, "This is called conservation through game management."

This situation is being compared to Cecil the lion, the iconic big cat hunted down by a Minnesota dentist in 2015, reports CBS News' David Begnaud. Even though the giraffe in this case was not world famous like Cecil, the response from animal lovers is just as intense.

Fewer than 100,000 giraffes remain on the entire continent. So when pictures surfaced of Talley posing with a giraffe she just killed, conservationists were sickened. 

"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.  

An obscure news website called AfricLand Post spread the photos on Twitter, describing Talley as a "white American savage who is partly a Neanderthal."  Actress Deborah Messing said she was a "vile...heartless, selfish murderer." 

"People will say stuff behind a computer screen they'd never say to your face," said Paul Babaz, president of the hunting advocacy group Safari Club International. "She was hunting in South Africa and giraffes are legal to hunt in South Africa."

In a statement, Talley said the giraffe she killed last year was more than 18 years old and "beyond breeding age, yet had killed 3 younger bulls... Now that the giraffe is gone, the younger bulls are able to breed."

According to Babaz, the trophy fee for a giraffe is about $2,000 to $3,000 per animal. He said because money from legal hunting helps support the local community, it provides an incentive to make sure big game animals don't become extinct.

"Without that….the poachers will come in and kill the animals indiscriminately, which is very unfortunate," Babaz said.

Talley's prey was a South African giraffe that had a black coat due to its age. It's 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 as 40 percent. Ho insisted that wildlife tourism is far more beneficial for animals and local 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."

According to Babaz, Talley ate some of the giraffe's meat during her hunting trip but gave most of it away to feed more than 200 local villagers, including children at an orphanage. So far, Babaz has not provided us documentation to prove any of that happened.