Fact Check

Wealthy Family Kills Elephant While It Was Eating

Rumor: A photograph shows a family of five posing with an elephant they killed.

Published Mar 10, 2015


Claim: A photograph shows a rich family posing with the carcass of an elephant that they had just killed.


Example: [Collected via email, March 2015]

There is an article posted on Facebook about a wealthy family that paid money to kill a 50 year old elephant, and the article has a photo of the family with the elephant dead laying in front of them as they're smiling for the photo. Is this true?

Origins: A photograph depicting a family of five posing with an elephant that they allegedly killed has been circulating around the internet since at least 2013. The photograph, which was originally posted to the Frikkie du Toit Safari's website, is frequently shared with the caption "Rich family kills elephant while it's eating ... share to make them famous":

Although the image is authentic, the common backstory attached to it is based on several assumptions which have not been verified.

The belief that the people in the photo are "rich" is assumed because big game hunting trips are very expensive (Frikkie du Toit Safari's charges more than $10,000 for certain animals), and the claim that the elephant was killed while it was in the act of eating (indicating it was taken by surprise and had no chance to flee or defend itself) is based upon what appears to be grass in the animal's mouth.

Most viewers also surmise that the people in the picture were responsible for the elephant's death. Although the man in the above photo also appears in a second image with the same elephant, the site does not specify who pulled the trigger:

It should also be noted that while many people may find the above-displayed photos offensive, these images do not depict an illegal act. Big game hunting is a controversial sport, but businesses such as Frikkie du Toit Safari's can legally conduct hunting safaris in South Africa for elephants (along with lions, leopards, rhinos, etc.):

Our host's Frikkie and Natasha du Toit welcome you to their luxurious camp which is surrounded by African game. Frikkie is a well known licensed professional hunter and guide who was born and raised in Africa. He has twenty years experience in hunting Africa and has successfully guided clients in hunting all of the Big 5, the Dangerous 7 and all species of the plains game.

Last updated: 10 March 2015

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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