A trophy hunter has angered animal lovers after her husband paid $2900 for her to kill an old giraffe and cut its heart out for Valentine's Day.
Merelize Van Der Merwe took to Facebook to post a photo of her holding the elderly giraffe's heart, captioning it: "Ever wondered how big a giraffe's heart is? I'm absolutely over the moon with my BIG Valentine's present!"
In other photos, she was seen posing with the dead giraffe and cuddling it in front of the camera.
The 32-year-old, who has hunted more than 500 animals including lions, leopards and elephants, said she's been waiting for years to have her "own perfect bull" giraffe and loves the dark skin of the iconic animal.
Knowing it was her dream to have her own bull, her husband decided to pay for her to shoot a giraffe as a Valentine's Day gift.
She now plans to use the skin for a rug.
The incident has infuriated animal activists but the mum has defended her trophy kill, saying that killing the ageing bull giraffe helps save threatened species in South Africa.
She says sustainable hunting helps conserve wildlife in South Africa and her actions create jobs and contribute to the tourism industry.
She labelled animal rights groups "the mafia" who she has "no respect for".
"I have no respect for them – I call them the mafia," she told The Mirror.
She claimed the death of the old bull would mean "a new bull can take over and provide new strong genetics for the herd".
"If hunting is banned, animals will become worthless and will disappear. Hunting has helped bring back a lot of species from the brink of extinction. The only people protecting these animals are trophy hunters."
She also said her day out "created work for 11 people that day" and "a lot of meat for locals".
But anti-trophy hunting organisation Born Free "strongly refutes claims by trophy hunting proponents that their activities support conservation or local communities".
Born Free said the sport is not made up of donations to conservation or locals but instead is a business.
They say hunters pay more "the rarer and more impressive the animal" and this incentivises hunting businesses to breed more trophy animals "to the detriment of the wider environment".
"Trophy hunting is a cruel throwback to a colonial past, and the targeting of particular animals (usually those with the most impressive traits such as the biggest tusks or the darkest manes) disrupts animal societies and has knock-on effects for populations and ecosystems that we are only just beginning to understand," Born Free wrote.
Animals lovers also vented their fury towards the 32-year-old's Valentine's Day killing, saying it's "not helpful" but is simply "murder".
"You would use anything to clear your conscience. Crazy how human beings are sure that they have rights over wildlife. Spoiler alert: we don't. And no, killing a giraffe will not help anyone or anything. It is just cold blood murder," one wrote.
Another added: "Why is she hugging it, like she is cuddling it? I am so irritated by that. As if she doesn't get it's dead. Or a stuffed animal ... This is horrible."
Elisa Allen from people for the Ethical Treatment of Animals told The Mirror the woman's actions fit the definition of a "sociopath".
"Someone who kills another sentient being, cuts out their heart, and boasts about it fits the definition of a sociopath.
"One day, trophy hunting will be listed as a sign of a psychiatric disorder, as it should be today. It is grandiosity, serial killing, and bloodlust paired with a burning desire to show off."