Donald Trump Jr in Zimbabwe.

Photographs of the sons of US billionaire Donald Trump posing over wild animals after killing them in Zimbabwe have caused a storm of outrage among animal conservation groups and on social networking sites.

The pictures, taken two years ago during a hunting trip in Zimbabwe, show Eric and Donald Trump Jr and tour guides next to carcasses of a leopard, a crocodile, a water buffalo, a civet, a kudu and an array of other animals.

In one of the pictures, Donald Jr holds a severed elephant tail while grasping a knife in his other hand. In another he and his brother are holding up a leopard’s carcass, and in another the brothers pose beside a crocodile suspended from a tree.

The trip was organised by Hunting Legends International, a Pretoria company that specialises in big-game hunting tailored for wealthy clients in Europe, the Middle East and the US.

After the pictures went viral on the internet, thousands chastised the Trump brothers on Twitter and Facebook while animal conservation groups were “outraged” by the pictures. The pictures were also rebuked by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta).

Donald Trump Jr took to Twitter this weekend to defend himself against a shoal of complaints from users. He said the hunting was sanctioned by the Zimbabwean government and that it was legal.

“In the area I was in, the wildlife board wanted to decrease the numbers for the benefit of the herd. Like liberal deer limits,” he said in one tweet.

“I don’t apologise to cater to public opinion when I did nothing wrong. To do so would be to sell myself out… There are no legal issues at stake,” he tweeted.

“Second, as for PR I’m a hunter I won’t cower from that because of some losers,” Trump continued.

He said the money would be used to fund nature conservation in Zimbabwe.

Stephen Lamb of Touching the Earth Lightly said he was outraged by the pictures ande-mailed a complaint to Hunting Legends.

“Hunting as an activity was there for a reason. It was there for human life sustenance, for people to eat. People who lived in tune with nature and understood their place in it,” Lamb said.

“In a traditional hunter-gatherer sense it was acceptable, but these days are mostly over.

“In a world where we are trying to save animals from extinction, trophy hunting has no place on this planet.

“Conservation is fundamentally a pro-life philosophy, one that respects all things living, equally. Conservation does not need the blood money of rich people who kill for pleasure.

“What conservation initiatives were funded by this killing, and who endorses them?

“Considering Zimbabwe’s legacy of corruption, these are the questions that must be asked. It’s all too easy to use the ‘it’s for conservation’ line,” Lamb said.

In response to Trump Jr’s statement that hunting was because of an overpopulation of the animals in Zimbabwe, Lamb said other measures such as relocation could be considered, and culling was always a last resort. “If you do have to cull, do it in a way that will show respect to the animals.

“Standing over an animal, smiling, with its tail in your hand is not one of them.”

Hunting Legends International’s Phillip Mostert said the hunt took place in the Matetsi Hunting Area near the Victoria Falls.

He said that it was legal and ethically conducted as prescribed by industry norms and regulations. - Cape Times

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