Man who arranged safari hunt for young Utah girl says he’s received death threats

Posted at 9:58 PM, Aug 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-18 23:58:28-04

CACHE COUNTY, Utah-- A 12-year-old Utah girl and her family received death threats after posting pictures of her big game targets taken during a safari in South Africa, and now the man who arranged the safari says he's facing the same backlash.

Mark Martineau got back from South Africa Wednesday night. When he came home he was bombarded with emails, voice mails and countless comments online threatening him and his family.

“I've received phone calls to my house threatening to come kill me,” said Mark Martineau, Owner of Rack Em Up.

A picture is worth a thousand words, but these photos were posted at the price of thousands of threats.

“They said they were going to slit my daughter's throat and watch her life drain from her body, that's something I have a really, really hard time with,” Martineau said.

A hunter his entire life, Mark Martineau launched "Rack Em Up" five years ago. He takes groups on trophy hunts all over the world. On his most recent trip, 12-year-old Aryanna Gourden and her father Eli were at his side. But none of them could have guessed their trip of a lifetime would create a nightmare for them when they got home.

“How dare they say that to a 12-year-old girl. How dare they,” Martineau said.

The photos sparked a social media storm, with threats of murder and torture coming from people all over the world.

“Where a 12-year-old girl is receiving death threats and they're wishing rape upon her and killing her family,” Martineau said.

Mark says the keyboard warriors making the threats simply don't understand.

“They think we go out and torture these animals and do it in the most unethical way possible, but that's not the case," he said. "We go out there, we do 'one shot, one kill' and put the animal down as fast as we can."

In the two weeks the group was there, they harvested dozens of animals. Mark says the goal for him and hunters alike is conservation. All the meat and most of the animal was donated to local villages.

“We go around to the villages and donate the meat to these people," Martineau said. "To be part of that experience, it is the most touching and loving thing."

Mark says the hunts not only help thriving species there, but the money they pay for the hunt is put back into conservation efforts.

He said, despite the threats, he's determined to keep hunting.

“It's worth it to me, it's my passion in life, I know the good it does and all we can do is fight,” Martineau said.

Mark and the Gourdens agree that while this has been troubling to say the least, it creates the opportunity to educate people and open eyes to hunting conservation.