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NEW YORK (CBSMiami) – An American hunter is pushing back against her critics after photos of her next to a giraffe she killed in South Africa triggered global outrage.

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Tess Thompson Talley told CBS News she killed the old bull giraffe to prevent it from attacking younger giraffes. She said it was “conservation through game management.” However, some conservationists aren’t buying her explanation.

Conservationists fear one of the great beasts of the African savannah could soon face extinction. 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. Iris Ho tracks trophy hunting at Humane Society International.

“It’s shocking that anyone would take joy or pleasure in killing a beautiful and graceful animal like a giraffe,” she said.

An obscure news website called Africland posted a spread of 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.”

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Paul Babaz is president of the hunting advocacy group Safari Club International of which Talley is a member. Babaz said he has been speaking with her regularly and she did nothing wrong.

“She was hunting in South Africa and giraffes are legal to hunt in South Africa,” he said.

In a statement, Talley said the giraffe she killed last year was over 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 two to three thousand dollars 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,” he said.

Talley’s prey was a South African giraffe and had a black coat due to 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.

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Ho said wildlife tourism is far more beneficial for animals and local communities than trophy hunting, which she called an “unnecessary threat” to the giraffe’s survival.