Melissa Bachman: 'We're animal lovers' say top female hunters
Olivia Nalos Opre and Mindy Arthurs support lion-killer and argue that they're 'conservationists'
TWO of America's top female hunters have come out in support of Melissa Bachman who sparked global fury by posing next to a lion she shot dead in South Africa.
Former beauty queen Olivia Nalos Opre and Mindy Arthurs, argue that hunting helps to conserve wildlife, the Daily Mirror reports. The pair, who claim to have shot and killed more than 70 species between them, back Bachman to the hilt.
Opre and Arthurs admit they have received "sacks" of mail accusing them of being "self-gratifying killers", the Mirror says. But they insist that shooting animals including lions, rhinos and bears "helps conservation" and they see themselves as "animal lovers".
Arthurs, who is from Arizona, told the paper that the first animal she killed was a bear. She downed it with one shot, a kill that left her feeling "on fire".
"You can be a hunter and a conservationist at the same time," Arthurs tells the paper. "People think you're just killing stuff but if you don't manage a herd then the whole of the herd will die."
She adds: "We are taking care of the big picture. I feel the general public doesn't realise that."
Arthurs says she is hoping to be crowned Extreme Huntress 2014, a competition that is organised by Opre and features a panel of judges that includes Melissa Bachman.
Opre, 36, is a former Mrs America contestant – a US pageant for married women – who has been hunting since she was 16. The Mirror says she has killed more than 65 species across six continents, earning her the world's most prestigious accolade for a female hunter - the Safari Club International Diana Award.
One of Opre's claims to fame is that she was the first woman to shoot a lion in Benin in West Africa.
Both women say they are doing nothing wrong. Arthurs donates meat from the animals she kills to food banks, while Opre says meat from her kills goes to "the indigenous people".
Say Opre: "As hunters, we are providing the indigenous people with the protein they wouldn't have otherwise."