Q: Was Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke photographed with a dead elephant?
A: No. He was falsely identified in a photo that was widely shared on Facebook.
Is the photo from Facebook a legitimate photo of cabinet member Zinke, posed with a gun and a dead elephant?
A photo that shows a Scottish farmer posing with a gun in front of a dead elephant has been shared thousands of times on Facebook after an animal-preservationist group wrongly identified him as U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
The Facebook group — which calls itself Cecil the Lion — criticized Zinke after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an Interior Department agency, announced in mid-November that it would reverse Obama-era rules banning the importation of elephant trophies from two African countries. (Cecil was the name of a lion killed controversially in 2015 by an American hunter in Zimbabwe.)
But the rule reversal has been halted by President Donald Trump, who tweeted on Nov. 17 that he was putting the “big game trophy decision on hold” until further review. Two days after that, the animal-preservationist group posted the photo of a hunter sitting in front of an elephant with a caption that read, in part: “Here is trophy and big-game hunter Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke, appointed by Donald Trump to the most powerful wildlife welfare position in the country, possibly the world.”
But Zinke is not the man in the picture. It’s actually Ian Evans, of Wigtownshire, Scotland, according to a 2016 story by the British online publication, the Independent.
Pictures of Evans posing with the bodies of various exotic animals date back as far as 2007, Evans said, but they surfaced in 2016 during a dispute between him and his daughter-in-law over the killing of her pet geese, the Independent reported.
She posted his big-game pictures from past years on her Facebook page, which stoked anger over the issue of trophy hunting. The picture of Evans with a dead elephant produced more outrage when the Cecil the Lion group posted it on Nov. 19 with the false caption.
Zinke later responded to the mislabeled photo on Twitter, saying, “The only thing I’ve hunted in Africa is terrorists,” a nod to his time in the U.S. Navy.
— Secretary Ryan Zinke (@SecretaryZinke) November 21, 2017
The group has since changed the photo’s caption to say: “Ryan Zinke, Secretary of Interior, appointed by Donald Trump as the most powerful person in the country, possibly the world, supports and PROMOTES this type of behavior. In this sense, Zinke is more dangerous to endangered species than the sick psycho depicted here. PLEASE SHARE!! your outrage.”
Bakst, Brian. “US man accused in African lion death thought hunt was legal.” Associated Press. 28 Jul 2015.
Cecil the Lion Facebook page. Original photo post. 19 Nov 2017.
Gearan, Anne. “Trump calls elephant hunting a ‘horror show’ and suggests he’ll enforce a ban on trophy imports.” Washington Post. 19 Nov 2017.
Payton, Matt. “Outrage over photos of UK hunter posing with dead elephant and zebra.” Independent. 20 Aug 2016.
U.S. Department of Interior. “Statement from Secretary Ryan Zinke on the Importing of Elephant Trophies.” Press release. 17 Nov 2017.