A South African trophy hunter and farm owner is facing international backlash after posting images posing with the heart of a 17-year-old giraffe she shot and killed during a hunting trip in February.

Merelize van der Merwe (32) shared the images to her personal Facebook page, captioning the image, “Ever wondered how big a giraffe’s heart is? I’m absolutely over the moon with my BIG valentine’s present.”

The hunt is believed to have occurred near Sun City, northwest of Johannesburg over Valentine’s weekend. Her husband, a Limpopo farm owner, arranged the hunting trip as a Valentine’s Day present and spent $2000 (just under R30 000) on the event.

In a separate post, Van der Merwe said she had been wanting to hunt a big black giraffe bull since 2016.  She has already hunted and killed over 500 animals including lions, elephants and leopards.

“My wonderful husband knew this was my dream and fully supported me from a romantic 5-star weekend away to roughing it again in the heat and bush,” she wrote. “I was literally like a little child for 2 weeks and counted down the days.”

I’d waited years for my own perfect bull – the older a bull gets the darker he gets,” she told The Mirror. “I love the skin and the fact it’s such an iconic animal for Africa.”

She said she plans to turn the giraffe’s skin into a carpet.

Since sharing the post, she has received a wave of backlash, with many criticising her for her actions and the pride she had in killing a giraffe. To date, there are over 1600 comments on her original post.

“The fact that you consider a part of a free-living animal killed for pleasure a sign of love on valentines day says a lot about you,” commented one Facebook user.

“You should feel sad for your actions, how does this give you joy? This world deserves better, and I’m sure it will one day with or without humans. You are doing no good and your soul is lost. There’s so much people trying to heal the world and there’s people like you,” wrote another.
There is a Change.org petition to have Van Der Merwe banned on Facebook to stop her from sharing news and images from her horrific hunts. At the time of writing, it has 10 184 signatures.

Van Der Merwe claims the killing was ethical good for conservation, as the giraffe was old and its death would allow another bull to “take over and provide new strong genetics for the herd”. She also argues that the kill created jobs and provided meat for locals for the day.

Trophy hunting is legal in South Africa, and animals allowed to be hunted include buffalo, crocodile, elephant, hippos, leopards, lions, giraffes, ostrich, springbok, and zebra among others.

A number of exclusive private nature reserves across the country offer trophy hunting as a draw to international tourists.

Some argue that trophy hunting contributes to habitat and species conservation, and provides economic benefits to local communities

However, many experts argue that trophy hunting should not be considered conservation. According to One Green Planet, trophy hunting can negatively affect a species’ population, and the revenue it brings in hardly reaches local communities. 

Picture: Facebook / Merelize van der Merwe

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