Big game hunts defended after Spanish king's disputed trip

An international hunters' group Tuesday defended their sport after a spate of bad publicity sparked by luxury big game trips by Spanish King Juan Carlos and Donald Trump's sons.

The International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation, which is meeting in Cape Town this week, said that ethical hunting of game can bring economic benefits to the host country.

"I can't comment on the king himself, but in Botswana in general, elephant hunting -- not poaching, hunting -- is sustainable and even more elephants should be shot if you're looking at the population dynamics," the group's director general Tamas Marghescu told a press conference.

He added that the elephant shot by Juan Carlos was an old bull, and the hunt was "absolutely sustainable".

The council's president Bernard Loze said Botswana has an overpopulation of elephants, which needs to be managed in an ethical way.

The group condemned poaching and was taking steps -- such as building up a database of ivory samples collected from members -- to help combat the scourge.

Loze said the outcry over the king's hunt was linked more to a "political issue and we don't get involved in political issues."

The king made a rare public apology following the Botswana hunt, when he was lambasted last month for taking a luxury trip amid economic troubles at home.

Anti-hunting sentiment also erupted following pictures of Trump's two sons standing with animals they'd killed on a safari, including a leopard and an elephant.

Adri Kitshoff, head of the Professional Hunting Association of South Africa, defended the Trump sons saying the pictures, including one in which Donald Junior holds a sliced off elephant tail, were actually "respectful".

As the rest of the animal was given to the local community for meat, the tail was traditionally the part that the hunter could keep, she said.

Kitshoff said that one hunter creates up to 14 jobs for people on the ground. In 2010, the 5,000 foreign hunters visiting South Africa spent 560 million rand ($70 million, 54 million euros) on fees and daily hunting rates alone.

Joseph Okori, head of the WWF African rhino programme, said his group believes that "the money made should go back to support conservation efforts for the survival of the species and to benefit communities."

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