Black rhinos are an endangered species, so you shouldn't be able to kill one, right? Tell that to the Dallas Safari Club, which next year will auction off the right to hunt and kill a black rhinoceros in Namibia. The auction is expected to fetch up to $1 million, which the organization says "is about saving the black rhino," since the funds will go to the Conservation Trust Fund for Namibia's Black Rhino. Actual conservation groups, of course, disagree with this high-caliber conservation tactic.
Namibia is home to about 1,800 black rhinos out of the total world population of about 4,800. The country allows up to five black rhinos to be hunted each year.
The Dallas Safari Club's press release about this auction says "one hunter will have a chance to hunt a black rhino, help manage and conserve the species, and import a rare trophy to the U.S." and that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) — which would need to issue a permit to allow that trophy to be imported into the country — "has promised full cooperation with a qualified buyer." FWS told PhysOrg last week that the hunter who wins the auction would have to pass a background check and the government would have to approve the specific animal to be killed.
The auction has been "facilitated" by attorney John J. Jackson, III, whose organization Conservation Force promotes hunting as an effective means of conserving rare species. Jackson represented hunter David K. Reinke, who hunted a black rhino in Namibia in 2009 and this year was allowed to import the carcass into the U.S. — the first such import in 33 years. At the time conservation organizations called this a "dangerous precedent," which it now appears to have become.
FWS specifically supports limited hunting when it can aid conservation. In this case, it says the removal of older, territorial males which have already bred can allow younger males to move in and start breeding with females.
In a statement, Humane Society of the United States President Wayne Pacelle decried the auction, saying "If these are multimillionaires and they want to help rhinos, they can give their money to help rhinos. They don't need to accompany their cash transfer with a high caliber bullet."
While all of this is going on, rhino poaching has now hit an all-time high. Statistically, somewhere between two and three rhinos are killed by poachers every day to feed the growing demand for rhino horns in China and Vietnam, where they are used as "cures" for everything from cancer to hangovers.
Conservation groups aren't the only ones opposing the auction. Stephen Colbert pilloried it last week:
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