Black Rhino Hunt Angers Conservationists

By Jill K. Robinson

May 27, 2015

The critically endangered black rhino.

Photo by Jill K. Robinson

Last year, Texas hunter Corey Knowlton bid $350,000 for one of three annual permits issued by the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism to hunt critically endangered black rhino. It was the first time such a permit had been auctioned outside the country. Last week, Knowlton shot and killed a black rhino in Namibia, rekindling a debate over conservation methods and the future of an endangered species.

Knowlton and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) claim that the animal was killed in the name of conservation, that the rhino was near the end of its life and was capable of harming or even killing younger black rhinos. “The hunts are consistent with the conservation strategy of Namibia, a country whose rhino population is steadily increasing, and will generate a combined total of $550,000 [which includes $250,000 from another permit applicant, Michael Luzich] for wildlife conservation, anti-poaching efforts and community development programs in Namibia,” the USFWS said in a statement. Knowlton also promised to give the rhino meat to a small village.

Unsurprisingly, the idea of sacrificing an animal to improve an endangered species’ welfare doesn’t sit well with some conservation groups. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are considering legal action to stop the U.S. government from allowing permits to import hunting trophies of endangered animals, arguing that they are inconsistent with the Endangered Species Act.

Although Knowlton claims that the hunt was purely for conservation reasons, the fact that he’s keeping the horns and shipping the entire hide back to the United States in order to make a trophy seems to taint the “goodwill” event.