Photographer Pulls Elephant Skin Bags From Retail After Public Backlash

Photographer Pulls Elephant Skin Bags From Retail After Public Backlash

A known photographer has decided to cease production of his range of elephant skin bags after outcry from the photography community. Some of the bags listed on his site would retail for up to $40,000.

Danish photographer Thorsten Overgaard is known not only for his photographic works, but also his writing and workshops. In recent years, he has partnered with Italian Designer Matteo Perin in order to produce luxury bags and suitcases. The price tag varies depending on the skin used, but listings show a purchase can set you back anywhere between $6,000 and $40,000.

Skin options include calf and crocodile, although Overgaard has caused the most upset through offering elephant skin. In response, he claims production of the bag actually helps preserve endangered species:

This specific bag is elephant hide from Zimbabwe, which is one of the countries that have a remarkable growth in population of Luxodonta africana elephants (84,000) within their reserves. The sale of hides from naturally deceased elephants goes into funding the reserves, the security, and veterinarians. The reserves feature 76 mammal and 650 bird species.

The legality of the bag has been called into question, although Overgaard insists the skin is only extracted from elephants who died of natural causes. Critics highlighted the rarity of elephant deaths, writing: “How many die naturally yearly? These are animals that live up to sixty years.”

Five days after the outcry erupted, Overgaard has now pulled the bags from sale and adopted an elephant in the process. Of his U-turn, he added: “I have decided it’s not something I will promote. I have changed my mind on this, as a result of researching this subject during the last week.”

Lead image credit: Pixabay user sasint, used under Creative Commons.

Jack Alexander's picture

A 28-year-old self-taught photographer, Jack Alexander specialises in intimate portraits with musicians, actors, and models.

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best news i read all week.

So he used skin from naturally deceased elephants, directed a percentage of funds to conservation, and a bunch of people lose their minds.


I fully understand how his products actually help the species, just like hunting in many areas. However, I think it's actually the commoditization of the hide that rubs people the wrong way. If we can avoid using elephant products as commodities, especially luxury ones, we stand a better chance at avoiding another ivory market situation in which locals are poaching the elephants for black market money. Turning the hide into another luxury product is sure to lead to situations in which the elephant does not die naturally.

The problem with your point, if it is a problem, is people will do what they do no matter what someone else does. People buying these products, from him, are aware of the situation and presumably care. Would someone else even know what the material is or if it's genuine? Just random thoughts. I don't know the answers.

Perhaps the possibility of this leading to a higher black market value hadn't crossed their mind and when presented, stops a few customers from purchasing the product. The way this is presented at face value seems like you're doing a good thing, and getting a cool camera bag in return. But a wider scope shows that there is some real danger of incentivizing black market poaching. Some people don't care and will do what they want, yes, but some are aware and perhaps haven't thought of it in a particular way yet.

If someone presents a potential buyer a bag they've never seen before, anywhere, the value would be higher than if they'd seen it other places. We could go back and forth on this but, we still wouldn't know. I'm not saying he should or shouldn't do it, but rather, he should be allowed to make that decision himself, which he appears to have done.
Freedom certainly can lead to unintended, negative consequences but I, for one, think it's worth it.

I don’t disagree with anything you’ve stated, however I will point out that nobody has taken away any of his freedoms. Freedom, in the purest form, allows his peers to voice their concern and it’s his choice as to whether or not he folds to the pressure. This is freedom of choice and the freedom to voice concern playing their rolls.

I wasn't disagreeing with you, either. Just exercising my freedoms. :-)
Unfortunately, it's the only exercise I get these days. ;-)

I think there's also valued skepticism in the legitimacy of such a practice as well. I think if everything was true, it would be ethically sound.

However it's a slippery slope when elephant hides start becoming desirable fashion and only a few elephants are dying a year - how do you get more hides to meet a demand for very lucrative business?

I can understand why you think it's crazy but by using elephant hide and pricing the products so high he's creating demand for products made from elephant.

Well Jiminy Cricket. I want to buy one of those bags, and go to the front office of PETA , bring out my roast beef sandwich, and put on my mink fur coat and bear skin boots and enjoy my day taking selfies and capturing all those lovely faces at PETA. What a treat to see those candid moments. Thank human beings winning the law suit to copyrights of a monkey losing a law suit, aka PETA lost and a human won......YEA for humans over a dumb monkey, Kind regards to PETA

I don't see the issue, it's from naturally deceased animals with the money going back into the reserve and conservation projects. People need to get real. That's a source of income that has now gone for the conservation of the animals. The campaign was probably fueled mainly by people who just read the headline rather than the detail, morons.

I doubt that many elephants have died of natural causes lately unless you consider the ivory and penis trade to be natural, how about rhino's one species went extinct last month. I judge from your photo that you are very young so let me explain it to you, creating a demand for a scarce product will bring out the best in humanity towards filling that demand (not). It was insensitive of Thorsten to trade in endangered species regardless of legality and it is also just gross.

...In your opinion.

I'm 30, and let me explain to you...

One country has a stock of 84K elephants, I'm pretty sure some of them died naturally. I'm sure the demand for the bags was no larger than before especially considering the price. If he even sold any, that money would have been very helpful, instead a small stock of skin has been wasted that could have been used to generate funds.

People far away from the issue with no clue about the difficulty in running the conservation projects and their only experience with an animal being in Disney movies generates more of a problem by being over emotional than a guy trying to raise funds for the problem which is a lot more than what the twitter army did.

Elephant hides are fungible. If they aren’t used in bags they will be used for something else. Like boots.

As others have mentioned, the issue is not in how the hides were collected for these particular elephants. It’s in the creation of demand for such a bag. So, though this gentleman may be ethically harvesting hides, those that are in desperate need will see the demand and poaching will rise to fill it. A free market will meet demand, one way or another. Frequently, the black market will fill the gaps.

Personally I think he should use human skins, after all 7 billion humans vs about 100,000 elephants in the wild. I vote to start with Thorsten and also throw in that despicable dentist who kills lions for sport.

using skin from dead animals, what if the demand exceeds the supply of dead animal skins ? will they use skins from elephants who died from lead poisoning or dying from instant death syndrome what happens when they extract the tusks,.?