Federal authorities have granted permission to an American hunter to kill an endangered black rhino in Namibia, and then bring the so-called trophy back to the United States. This is the most recent development in a saga that began nearly two years ago, when the Dallas Safari Club auctioned off a permit to hunt the endangered creature. The winning bidder paid $350,000 for the chance to bag a Black Rhino, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) initially denied his request to bring the dead animal back to the U.S. However, upon determining that the proceeds from the auction and subsequent hunt will go towards conservation efforts, the agency has given the go-ahead.
The Dallas Safari Club held an auction last year for two permits to kill a near-extinct Black Rhino in Namibia, under the somewhat perverse logic that the proceeds of the auction would benefit conservation efforts in Africa—a “kill one (or two) to save them all (or some),” if you will.
Corey Knowlton was one of the successful bidders, paying $350,000 for the privilege of hunting a rhino and bringing it back to the U.S. As he told media at the time, “I’m a hunter… I want to experience a black rhino. I want to be intimately involved with a black rhino. If I go over there and shoot it or not shoot it, it’s beyond the point.”
In a further attempt to justify the fundraising effort, organizers sought to assure the public that the rhinos slaughtered will be older males no longer capable of reproducing. And in all, this appears to have been enough to convince U.S. authorities to sanction the killings.
Explaining the agency’s decision to approve the permits, USFWS Service Director Dan Ashe said in a statement, “The future of Africa’s wildlife is threatened by poaching and illegal wildlife trade, not responsible, scientifically-managed sport hunting… We remain committed to combating heinous wildlife crimes while supporting activities that empower and encourage local communities to be a part of the solution.”
As Kathleen Garrigan, a spokesperson for the African Wildlife Foundation told TakePart, “In this day and age, sport hunting of any critically endangered species—especially a species that is seeing massive rises in poaching incidents—cannot be supported.” While the Humane Society called the USFWS decision the “worst kind of mixed message.”
Black rhinos are a critically-endangered species, with fewer than 5,000 remaining in their natural habitat in Namibia and Coastal Eastern Africa. An additional 20,000 white rhinos remain in the wild, largely in South Africa.
The rare creatures face an ongoing threat from poachers, largely from Mozambique; over 1,200 rhinos were killed in 2014 in South Africa alone. Poachers are able to sell the rhino horns on the black market to areas of Asia where they are used—without scientific basis—in traditional medicine.