Tess Thompson Talley, a 37-year-old Texas woman who works in a ball-bearing factory, is the subject of controversy after photos of her posing with a dead black giraffe on a hunting trip went viral.
In a June 2019 interview with CBS News, Talley described the giraffe as delicious and said she made decorative pillows and a gun case out of it.
The outcry against the American hunter is somewhat reminiscent of the anger that erupted when an American dentist killed a popular lion on a hunting trip, although no one’s accusing Talley of illegality. In the case of Tess Talley, the giraffe photos have angered animal rights activists and even some celebrities, but she has defended her actions as conservation, and such trophy hunting is legal in some African countries.
However, Talley has filled her Facebook page with photos from hunting trips, showing her with other dead animals, sparking even more ire on social media.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Talley Reportedly Called It a ‘Lifetime Dream Hunt’
It appears that Talley, 37, first posted photos from the hunt on social media in 2017. It’s just that they weren’t found by others until recently, at which time they went viral. Although some news sites have given her hometown as Kentucky, and property records show ties there, records also show that she owns a home with a man in Texas that was appraised at just over $205,000 in 2018. Her full name is Tunessa Talley.
“Prayers for my once in a lifetime Dream hunt came true today!” she wrote on Facebook at the time, indicating that “they did get 2,000 pounds of meat from the large male giraffe,” according to KXAN-TV.
The rest of the post read, “Spotted this rare black giraffe bull and stalked him for quite awhile. 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 Tess Talley’s photos date to 2017, why did they go viral in June 2018? That was due to a post on Twitter by a group called Africlandpost.
“White american savage who is partly a neanderthal comes to Africa and shoot down a very rare black giraffe coutrsey of South Africa stupidity. Her name is Tess Thompson Talley. Please share,” the tweet says. It’s accompanied by two photos that show Tess Talley with the dead giraffe.
That group runs a news page devoted to articles about the African continent and its people. The photos then went viral on social media.
According to Patch, the hunt took place in South Africa.
2. Talley Frequently Posts Other Photos on Facebook With Dead Animals
When a friend wrote recently on Facebook, “she’s out ya’all,” Talley wrote, “Prob not long.. fb seems to be against women hunting lol.” Her Facebook profile and cover pictures show her with other dead animals.
On Facebook, Tess Talley belongs to Facebook groups that include “Hunting is my passion,” “Deer hunting club,” “Girls With Guns Clothing,” and a Cajun restaurant.
Friends have filled her thread with supportive comments, with some indicating they’ve received hate mail about her. “I also get the same hate mail. Sorry I think it is funny. Those spineless fools only are masters of a keyboard not reality. Stay strong Tess!” wrote one man.
Talley was tagged in one photo showing her with a living animal – a dog. The Texas woman who posted it on Facebook wrote, “Do you guys remember when I made the Zander Safaris shirts that were going to Africa?! This is a picture of Tess Thompson Talley and the little dog over there that the Zander Safaris people consider their child lol This made my day!!! From Midland Texas all the way to Africa how awesome!”
Talley appears to have ties to Texas. An outdoor television show’s page posted a photo of her with a dead deer and wrote, “Tess Talley sent us this photo yesterday of her giant Texas mule deer… Let’s give Tess a Like for getting it done in the Lone Star state!”
She appears to have posted a photo with a dead monkey on a page called “PETAALAS (people eating tasty animals and laughing at snowflakes).”
In 2017, she posted photos of a dead deer head mounted on her wall.
“Another one on the wall!!” she wrote. She also shared a graphic that reads, “The human spirit needs access to places that have not been rearranged by the hand of man.” She posted photos of a glass with a deer head on it that read “eat ’em & hang ’em.”
3. Talley, Who Is Married, Defended Herself & Said Giraffes Are Black Because They Darken With Age
In an email to Fox News, Talley defended herself, writing, “The giraffe I hunted was the South African sub-species of giraffe. 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. The breed is not rare in any way other than it was very old. Giraffes get darker with age.”
Fox News further reported, “She points out that the giraffe she killed was 18, too old to breed, and had killed three younger bulls who were able to breed, causing the herd’s population to decrease,” quoting Talley as saying, “This is called conservation through game management.”
She told UK Daily Mail that she is being treated differently because she is a woman and added, “It is something I believe in. This is more than a hobby for me, it’s a passion.” She claimed 2,000 pounds of giraffe meat was donated to a local orphanage and says the giraffe was 18. “This giraffe had killed three younger ones that would have bred. As I was hunting him I was walking over their bones. The herd is flourishing now that he is gone,” she told Daily Mail.
In addition to the sheer majestic nature of the animal in the photos, the fact the animal was described as a rare black giraffe has also driven some of the outrage. However, why are giraffes black? Is it really because they age?
According to Life Science, giraffes do darken with age. “And new research suggests the appearance change takes about 1.8 years to complete, with male giraffes being completely covered in coal-black blotches by an average age of 9.4 years,” the science site reports.
At the most, giraffes live to be about 22 years.
Talley’s husband, Andrew, also defended her on Facebook (where he’s pictured with a dead alligator), writing, “You people have no concept of what hunting or game management is even about. You put human life value below animal rights however you have no issue with wearing your leather belts, boots, carrying your leather purses…all of which are from animals that are tortured before death and not in any way humanly (sic) put down. I realize I’m talking to a brick wall with you people,’ he added. ‘But if you want to message her, threaten her life, please feel free to PM me and I will get you coordinates to where you and I can meet up instead of playing keyboard warrior. You guys talk a big game, but let’s see if you can back it up. My wife is very proud of her harvest of the old bull, as am I. So here I am let’s see what you got.”
4. Ted Nugent Defended Tess Talley on Facebook & the Giraffes Are Increasing in the Wild
Not everyone is criticizing Tess Talley. Ted Nugent took to Facebook to defend her.
“Ignorance is one thing but the insanity of scrambling to avoid information and truth to eliminate ignorance is downright toxic and obscene. Giraffes must be managed just like deer and elk and bears and cougars etc etc etc. How stupid and embarrassing can people be,” Nugent wrote along with a story about Tess Talley’s supposed “trophy kill.”
Julian Fennessy, Ph.D., co-founder of the organization Giraffe Conservation Foundation, told Yahoo News that the giraffe in the photo “is of the South African species Giraffa giraffa, which are not rare— they’re increasing in the wild.”
Fennessy also told the site: “Legal hunting of giraffe is not a reason for their decline, despite the moral and ethical side of it which is a different story.”
5. People Have Expressed Anger on Social Media
Tweets criticizing Tess Talley have filled social media. “This is horrible! Shame on Tess Thompson Talley!! She went from Kentucky to Africa to kill things. Not to feed her family, just for pleasure, for trophies,” wrote one man.
“Okay Twitter do your thing. This woman murdered this beautiful creature for her own selfishness,” read another post. Many of the tweets use language too graphic to reprint.
Celebrities also weighed in with actress Debra Messing calling Talley “a disgusting, vile, amoral, heartless, selfish murderer.”
An author named Tess Thompson has been misidentified by some people on social media as Tess Thompson Talley. However, the author had nothing to do with the woman who posted the giraffe photos. Tess Thompson, the author, wrote on Facebook:
I love talking to you about my books! Thank you for stopping by.
Recently, I have been mistaken as someone with a similar name to mine. She is a big game hunter named Tess Thompson Talley – she can be reached on her own Facebook page.
This is not me! I am an American Women’s Fiction writer, mother, and animal lover. Sadly, people who have not taken the proper time to check their facts have made hateful and upsetting comments here, as well as sent email to my private address.
We have now taken measures to keep my page safe and free from any more of this horrible type of activity. I really wish people would take a moment to make sure they have the right person before spreading hate on my page – a page I am careful to keep family friendly. A page where my children follow me.
If you see anything of concern, please feel free to PM me.
Many Thanks and happy reading,
Tess Thompson, Author