A video of an American CEO shooting an elephant in Zimbabwe that villagers then sliced apart for meat has raised thousands of dollars for a conservation group after a rival Internet firm used the graphic footage to steal away customers.
The founder of Save The Elephants, Iain Douglas-Hamilton, said he was surprised but appreciative by the more than $20,000 in funds raised by Internet domain registration site Namecheap.
Namecheap offered to donate $1 for every customer who opened a new account with them after the chief executive of their competitor GoDaddy.com appeared in the video of an elephant being killed last month.
"It's a very sad, tragic thing when elephants have to be shot. I find the glorification totally out of place," Iain Douglas-Hamilton, the founder of Save The Elephants, said Wednesday.
In the video, Bob Parsons is seen standing in a field of green sorghum whose stalks have been trampled, and portrays the shooting as a solution to crop-killing elephants.
"Properly dealing with problem elephants saves crops, feeds villages and helps maintain elephant herds," a graphic on the video says. "Damage is extensive. Unless elephant(s) are stopped entire crop may be lost. When crops are lost subsistence farmers risk starvation."
A team of hunters tracks down three elephants at night and killed one. The following morning swarms of what the video calls "hungry villagers" _ some in GoDaddy.com hats _ hack at the elephant for meat. It says some have walked for 20 miles (30 kilometers).
But Douglas-Hamilton said the issue is more complicated than the video portrays. He did not believe the villagers were starving, though he said meat is valued and worth a long walk.
"You can't control crop raiding in Africa through foreign hunters. It's not going to work," he said. "It's a perk for people who enjoy killing elephants to justify themselves."
Namecheap, a domain name registration company that competes with GoDaddy, said it was disturbed by the video and decided to "throw our support behind our elephant friends" by offering website name transfers for $4.99, with $1 going to the elephants. The company announced Tuesday on Twitter that it raised $20,433.
Save The Elephants said it didn't solicit the donation but greatly appreciates the support "as a constructive reaction" to the video.
Parsons, on his website, wrote that he goes to Zimbabwe every year to hunt problem elephants. He said it is "one of the most beneficial and rewarding things I do." A previous video posted in March 2010 says that Parsons was traveling with the "Problem Animal Control Team" and it shows villagers complaining about elephants damaging crops.
Shooting an elephant in most African countries is illegal, but such hunts can be done in countries that offer a limited number of expensive permits. Elephants numbers dropped precipitously in the 1970s and 1980s, but have recovered since then. A 2007 survey by the African Elephant Specialist Group found that Zimbabwe had 84,000 elephants.
"We really need to get on the ball and find these problem elephants and get them handled," Parsons says in the 2010 video while surveying a field of damaged crops.
A spokeswoman for the GoDaddy Group said Parsons was traveling and not immediately available for comment.
Conservationists pursue other solutions to human-elephant conflicts. Groups in Kenya built a tunnel under a major highway earlier this year so elephants could move between two wilderness areas without walking through villagers' crops.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals condemned Parsons' most recent video, saying he had killed the elephant for enjoyment.
"Parsons is hiding behind the lame claim that killing elephants helps farmers in Africa whose crops are damaged by the animals," PETA said. "In fact, there are ample effective and non-lethal methods to deter elephants from crops, including using chili-infused string and beehives on poles to create low-cost 'fences.'"
Save The Elephants: http://www.savetheelephants.org