A Canberra businessman has been slammed by animal rights groups after posing with the body of a slain baboon dressed up for the camera during a hunting trip in Africa.
The photos feature Nick Haridemos, who is vice president of the Hellenic Club in Canberra and whose family own the fenced off building at the Curtin shops, posing alongside animals he has shot and killed on safari.
The images appear to have been taken over a number of trips between 2010 and late 2016, and were posted to an online forum where hunters report their kills on the continent, as well as on a public Photobucket account belonging to a “nickha1”. This month, they also surfaced on Twitter.
Along with images of bloodied hyenas and dead elephants is a photo of a baboon posed behind the wheel of a jeep in sunglasses and a hat, as Mr Haridemos smiles from the passenger seat.
“Absolutely funny as hell!” the user “nickh” wrote in the accompanying post, referencing a video that was also taken of the dead baboon at the wheel.
“The new driver gig was a blast….We did a video clip with Blake wired into the microphone talking and we actually drove off!”
In 2016, the same account posted photos of Mr Haridemos on another hunt in Namibia shooting elephants and posing with ivory.
“It is truly the place to hunt the biggest ivory in Africa, especially with Botswana now closed,” nickh wrote.
Through his lawyer, Mr Haridemos did not deny posting the photos but stressed all hunting trips were legal.
“Mr Haridemos has, on occasions, engaged in the activity of ‘conservation hunting’,” his solicitor said.
“This is a regulated activity, which is undertaken in accordance with licences and quotas issued by the relevant country, and is conducted in a manner that does not pose a threat to any endangered species.”
The Canberra Times understands that the 2016 hunt was run through Nyae Nyae Conservancy, which was a granted a hunting quota from the Namibian government that same year, and has a history of running legal hunts in the country since 1998.
Nicola Beynon at the Australian branch of Humane Society International said trophy hunting had no place in modern conservation.
“Most people are repulsed by trophy hunters posing for pictures with slaughtered wildlife,” she said.
“The ivory trade is sounding the death knell for African elephants.”
The baboon pictured appears to have been shot in 2010 on a trip to Zimbabwe run through Charlton McCallum Safaris, which charges up to $2000 a day and up to $15,000 for trophy kills.
On the forum, photos were accompanied by detailed reports of numerous hunts, signed off by “Nick”, including flying business class into Namibia to hunt elephants, and putting a bull elephant that had already been shot by poachers “out of its misery”.
In a post detailing the 2010 hunt, nickh refers to shooting “a big old baboon as we had stopped to change a flat tyre”.
“He was a cocky old guy, thinking he was out of range at 171m, but he stopped to look back and the new Blaser R8 416 quickly ‘made my day’,” the post said.
A spokeswoman for animal rights group PETA Australia described the images as appalling.
“With boundless opportunities for amusement, it speaks volumes that such people get a thrill from gunning down, and turning into objects of ridicule, other individuals who ask for nothing out of life but the chance to live it,” she said.
Carolyn Drew, spokeswoman for Animal Liberation ACT, said the images appeared to reflect the disturbing trend of “hunters trying to one-up each other”.
“Hunters get a kick out of both the power they feel when killing an animal and then through posing or showing off to the hunting community, they get a thrill,” she said.
“All hunting, including that [by] Australians, puts pressure on wildlife and, whether inadvertently or not, enables the poaching trade. While both trophy hunters and poachers keep hunting, each gives the another the excuse to keep going.
“It all makes me feel very sad… that wildlife are treated with such disdain and contempt.”
After Fairfax Media put questions to Mr Haridemos, images of him posing with slain animals were removed from the Photobucket account.
In 2016, a landmark study found elephant populations across Africa had fallen by 30 per cent in just five years and were continuing to decline.
On average, one elephant is killed every 15 minutes for its ivory, according to IFAW, spearheading global efforts to end the trade.
Ms Beynon said the Australian government also needed to legislate against the domestic trade of ivory within its own borders.
“Every loophole in global efforts must be plugged to give elephants the very best chance of surviving,” Ms Beynon said.
The Canberra Times is not suggesting Mr Haridemos is himself involved in the illegal ivory trade.