SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – GoDaddy.com CEO Bob Parsons scrambled to explain his motives Friday after a video he put on Twitter of himself killing an elephant in Zimbabwe went viral -- leading to calls for a boycott from animal-rights groups.
In the video, Parsons and a team of others shoot an elephant they claim was destroying farmers' crops in the area.
"They've been here three nights in a row, we're hoping they come back for a fourth. And if they do, well, we're gonna be here to greet 'em," Parsons says with evident relish. The team then waits up at night for the elephants to come. When they do Parsons shoots one of them as an accompanying screen graphic says "Bob Parsons fires again. Both shots hit home."
The CEO can then be seen smiling as he stands over the elephant with his gun before another scene shows local villagers hacking the animal to bits, all while wearing orange GoDaddy.com hats. The scene is accompanied by AC/DC's "Hell's Bells" music.
"When you see me smiling in that picture, I'm smiling because I'm relieved no one was hurt, that the crop was saved, and that these people were going to be fed -- the type of smile when you get a good report card or achieve a goal," Parsons told Mashable Thursday.
"I've been going to Africa for six years," he said, "and I progressively became aware of the elephant situation and what a problem it is for the locals."
Parsons explained to the tech website that far from being an endangered species, elephant herds in Zimbabwe are abundant and a nuisance to local farmers who face the threat of starvation on a constant basis due to elephants destroying their crops.
Non-violent solutions such as fences, fires and loud noises are not enough to ward them off, he explained.
"This farmer was desperate," Parsons said. "He couldn't get the herd out of his field. He asked us to come and deal with it."
However, animal-rights groups were not buying it, claiming that Parsons was using a "flimsy" excuse to disguise his passion for hunting big game.
"Parsons is hiding behind the lame claim that killing elephants helps farmers in Africa whose crops are damaged by the animals," People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said on its website.
"In fact, there are ample effective and nonlethal methods to deter elephants from crops, including using chili-infused string and beehives on poles to create low-cost 'fences.' Instead of coming up with flimsy excuses for killing these highly intelligent and social animals, Parsons should use his wealth to fund humane solutions to human/elephant conflicts."
The group said that it had closed its account with GoDaddy as a result of its CEO's actions and encouraged supporters to do the same.
Rival companies also saw an opening to bash a competitor. Los Angeles-based NameCheap.com was offering special time-limited deals to customers who switched over to their service in protest, saying that it would donate 20 percent of the revenue from new accounts to the Save The Elephants charity.
"All of us at Namecheap were very disturbed by this video," the company said. "Elephants are an endangered species and hunting these for any reason is something we feel strongly against."
Parsons, an ex-Marine who served in Vietnam, told Mashable that while he understood the concern of critics, the situation was more complicated than it appeared.
"These people look at this from the context of being Americans," he said. "We're well-fed and isolated from the process of growing and butchering meat. We see this, and we're horrified. Their hearts are in the right place, but they just don't understand what's going on over there."
GoDaddy.com, a private company founded by Parsons in 1997, operates more than 46 million domain names.