Sons of US tycoon Donald Trump are being investigated by Zimbabwean conservationists who said on Friday that they questioned the legality of the boys’ hunting spree in Zimbabwe.
The investigation was launched after photos were published online showing Donald Jr and Eric posing with dead game animals.
The independent Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force alleged that the Trump sons had killed an elephant, endangered leopard, a buffalo, a crocodile and other “big game” animals on a 2011 trip arranged by a South African Safari firm not registered in Zimbabwe.
A flurry of protests trailed the release of the hunting photos online – one pictured both men standing with the dead leopard and in another photograph one brother was seen holding up an elephant’s severed tail in one hand and a knife in the other.
According to reports, animal protection groups expressed their outrage at how “rich people” bragged about their “shocking and unethical” actions.
Head of the conservationists’ , Johnny Rodrigues, said investigators were probing records to ascertain if license and trophy fees were paid and if the South African firm that organised the hunting trip had been authorized by Zimbabwean wildlife authorities.
Organisers and hunters could face fines of up to $500,000 if found guilty of breaching hunting laws in Zimbabwe.
“The safari operator was obviously paid but the majority of the money probably didn’t come into Zimbabwe,” Rodriguez said.
The Trump brothers claimed they gave the meat from the dead animals to impoverished local villagers, but the claims are being checked as there are no villages in the northwestern Matetsi district of Zimbabwe where they hunted.
“It is an insult to say ‘we gave away the meat.’ They mustn’t turn around and say that they shot those animals for conservation either,” Rodrigues told The AP.
“This is the problem with those who they think they can come to manipulate and control people, destroy natural resources and say ‘we came to help.’ We don’t want them here,” he said.
The Trump brothers said they only hunted in areas with excesses. Zimbabwean authorities say they are investigating reports that hunting dogs were used in the 2011 hunting trips.
Veteran animal rights campaigner Meryl Harrison of the Veterinarians for Animal Welfare in Harare said Zimbabwe’s Wildlife Act of 2000 prohibits hunters from using dogs to hunt leopard or any wildlife unless given special authority in certain conditions.
“A leopard doesn’t stand a chance. The dogs chase it up a tree and they stay at the bottom of the tree and the hunter takes an easy shot,” she said.