Chinese internet titan Jack Ma hit back yesterday at a British report that he indulged in a luxurious hunting trip in Britain, saying the trip two years ago was for animal conservation, not recreation.
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) also defended Ma, a director on the organisation's board, after Britain's The Sunday Times reported on Sunday that billionaire Ma was among the Chinese new rich indulging in upmarket hunting trips in Britain.
The report said Ma and 11 travelling companions spent £36,000 (HK$468,000) renting a castle near Loch Ness for a hunting holiday.
They reportedly travelled by helicopter to a number of upscale hunting parks and together killed 11 stags in a week.
The report said more of China's moneyed classes were spending big on hunting in Britain to emulate the aristocratic lifestyle depicted in British television shows like Downton Abbey and the Fieldsports Channel, which have become very popular in China.
Ma said on his personal page on mobile chat app Laiwang that he took part in the trip to learn how to better protect the environment.
He admitted the trip was "quite expensive" but denied that he was seeking to emulate an aristocratic lifestyle.
"Growing up in a grass-roots family, I do not yearn for an aristocratic life," he said. "Honestly speaking, the hunting experience was no fun."
TNC said in a statement on its website yesterday that it organised the trip two years ago to study the development of conservation zones in Europe and examine the control of wild animal populations.
"It is utterly different from [what] the … pictures in the media reports showed, and is a far cry from the destructive hunting and novelty-seeking conduct suggested in the report," the statement said.
"Well-planned hunting on the basis of scientific research … helps ease the spread of disease and reduce unnecessary competition for resources," it said.
Ma became chairman of The Nature Conservancy's China Programme in May last year.