An African hunter who claims to have killed more than 5,000 elephants says he is 'totally unrepentant' about the deaths he has caused.
Ron Thomson, 77, who worked in Africa's national parks for almost six decades, claims he was not hunting the animals for pure sport but was managing population that would otherwise have got out of control.
However, animal rights campaigners point out that elephant numbers are in steep decline and say 'management culling' is often used as a cover for trophy hunting.
Ron Thomson, 77, says he is 'totally unrepentant' after killing more than 5,000 elephants during a nearly six decade career working in Africa's national parks
Mr Thomson, from Zimbabwe, was forced to defend his record after a report by the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting branded him one of the world's most prolific elephant killers.
On his website, Mr Thomson also claims to have killed 800 buffalo, 60 lions, 50 hippos and 40 leopards.
That total does not include kills he made while leading a culling team that shot 2,500 elephants and 300 hippos in Gonarezhou National Park in the 1970s.
Speaking to The Independent, he said: 'I'm totally unrepentant, a hundred – ten thousand – times over for any of the hunting I've done because that's not the problem.
'The problem is we've got a bunch of so-called experts from the West telling us what to do. I'm a trained university ecologist – I must surely know something about this.'
During his career he has held posts including game warden of Hwange National Park, and was a professional hunter for three years.
He no longer routinely hunts, though said he would go again if invited, and instead writes books about his experiences, including God Created Man The Hunter.
On his website, he is described as 'one of the most experienced African big game hunters alive today.'
Mr Thomson says he was actually helping to save elephants because he argues African reserves have more animals than they can handle
Campaigners rubbished Mr Thomson's claims, saying elephant numbers are in steep decline and 'management culls' are often used as fronts for trophy hunts
In videos posted to the YouTube channel of his wildlife organisation, The True Green Alliance, Mr Thomson outlines his view of wildlife conservation.
He argues that elephants are not an endangered species, that wildlife parks in southern Africa have 'ten to 20 times more elephants' than they can sustain, and that this is destroying the environment.
Without proper management, including culls, he argues that the parks will be overrun and endanger far more species than elephants alone.
Eduardo Gonçalves, founder of the Campaign to End Trophy Hunting, rubbished Mr Thomson's claims - saying natural animal populations rarely 'overstock' themselves.
'The African elephant population as a whole is in very serious decline,' he said, adding that 'there are numerous instances of 'management culling' being used as a cover for trophy-hunting.'
Mr Gonçalves' report claims that, since the 1980s, elephant numbers in southern Africa have declined from 1.3million to just over 400,000.
In the same time period, hunters from around the globe have taken more than 100,000 trophies back to their home countries.
The group said there has been a four-fold increase in the number of elephant trophies taken in 2015 compared with 1985, and the jump in the amount of ivory taken over the same period was nearly twelve-fold.