Even if it is taking out a nonproductive individual so therefore will have no impact on population dynamics, the fact is that it sends a message that it is ok to take another life for entertainment, and that certainly represents an abhorrent level of morality by mankind
Photograph by Theo Allofs, Corbis
Published October 28, 2013
A group called the Dallas Safari Club is auctioning off the chance for one hunter to shoot an endangered black rhinoceros in Namibia. The club claims all proceeds will support conservation of the embattled species, but the the announcement has touched off a firestorm of criticism around the world.
Ben Carter, executive director of the Dallas Safari Club, told the media that 100 percent of the auction proceeds will support the Conservation Trust Fund for Namibia's Black Rhino.
"There is a biological reason for this hunt, and it's based on a fundamental premise of modern wildlife management: Populations matter; individuals don't,” Carter said. “By removing counterproductive individuals from a herd, rhino populations can actually grow."
Scientists estimate that there are about 5,055 black rhinoceroses left in the world, a decline of about 96 percent over the past century or so. They were listed in Appendix I of CITES in 1977 and on the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 1980; they are are currently listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Even so, all three of those bodies—CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and IUCN—are on record as allowing limited, targeted hunting.
In particular, CITES has granted Namibia an annual export quota of up to five hunter-taken black rhinos. Scientists estimate there are 1,795 of the animals living in the African country.
As in other rhino countries, in Namibia the animals continue to be menaced by illegal poachers and habitat loss. Rhino poaching has hit an all-time high, with two to three rhinos killed by poachers every day across Africa, largely to feed demand for their horns in China and Vietnam. The keratin-based horns, which are made out of the same material as human fingernails, are marketed as medicines there for everything from cancer to hangovers. (See “Rhino Wars” in National Geographic magazine.)
The Dallas Safari Club (DSC) says it expects the permit to sell for at least $250,000, possibly up to $1 million. According to an official release from the club, Namibia has never before sold a black rhino-hunting permit directly outside of its borders.
Typically, the five Namibian permits that are issued each year are sold to local hunt operators, which then book clients from around the world. Those permits have typically gone for a few hundred thousand dollars.
In recent years, however, Americans have not been able to import black rhino trophies into the U.S., which has limited the interest from that country, reported the DSC. But the Fish and Wildlife Service is set to grant an exemption in this case, as part of a deal that Namibians will hope will also bring in a higher price for the permit, explained Nelson Freeman, a spokesperson for Safari Club International.
The move is not without precedent. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had previously granted a permit for a trophy of an older, nonbreeding male black rhino taken from Waterberg Plateau National Park in Namibia in 2009.
“This hunt removed an animal that was counterproductive to herd growth and generated $175,000 for rhino conservation efforts,” according to DSC’s press release.
News of the permit has attracted some public support, especially from hunting groups.
“Though it may seem counterintuitive to critics, the hunt is being sanctioned by scientists around the world as helpful to the future of a rare species,” according to the DSC.
The club said that the hunt would target an older, postbreeding male black rhino (a bull), an animal with a reputation for being territorial and for even occasionally charging and killing younger bulls, cows, or calves.
“Removing these individuals can lead to greater survival of other rhinos and, in turn, greater abundance of the species,” wrote the club.
But Jeff Flocken, North American director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, takes exception with the proposed auction for a black rhino hunting permit.
“Killing animals to save them is not only counterintuitive but ludicrous,” he told National Geographic. “We're talking a highly endangered species, and generating a furor to kill them in the name of conservation is not going to do anything to help them in the long run.” (See “Opinion: Why Are We Still Hunting Lions?”)
Flocken said the problem is that hunting sends a signal to world markets that the animal is worth more dead than alive.
“The value of photographic and wildlife-viewing safaris far outweighs the value of trophy hunting,” he said. “When they kill a black rhino, that is one less incentive for someone who would come take a picture, and come again and again.”
Flocken said killing a rhino permanently takes the value of that creature out of the country, with economic consequences. “Everyone wants to see a rhino when they go to Africa, but not everyone wants to go and shoot one.”
“The rarer an animal becomes, the more incentive there is to kill one” he said, noting that the same trend is at work with exotic animal products like polar bear rugs and elephant ivory. Prices keep rising as populations fall, despite international restrictions on trade in endangered animals.
The Humane Society of the United States is petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to prohibit the auction winner from bringing the black rhino trophy into the country.
"I think if they were multimillionaires and they were serious about helping rhinos, they could give money to help rhinos and not shoot one along the way," the group’s president, Wayne Pacelle, told UPI. "The first rule of protecting a rare species is to limit the human [related] killing."
Wider Issues in Rhino Conservation
The debate over the Namibia hunt is a microcosm of broader wildlife issues in conservation across Africa. Other countries in the region have been grappling with whether to allow such limited hunting.
In a recent post on National Geographic’s website, Dereck Joubert, a conservation filmmaker and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, celebrated the end of all legal hunting of endangered wildlife in Botswana, which was announced in September.
“Today, safari hunting ends!!” Joubert wrote. “The end of an era of conservation by the gun, and the beginning of a new era for Africa, a more gentle caring one. My congratulations to the government of Botswana, with deep gratitude from me, from all concerned citizens, and from the informed global community of people that are concerned about wildlife.”
Several other countries continue to allow the practice, and the British conservation charity Save the Rhino argues that the debate around limited hunting should be nuanced.
“Let’s see if MET [Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism] has made the right call on holding this auction in Dallas,” the group said in a statement.
Save the Rhino argues that it makes sense for Namibia to try to earn more money for conservation by taking the auction out of its backyard and into the wider world—specifically a world with well-heeled hunters, like Dallas.
“Couldn’t they get $750,000 without having to suffer an animal being shot? Well, yes,” Save the Rhino said in a statement. “It would be nice if donors gave enough money to cover the spiralling costs of protecting rhinos from poachers. Or if enough photographic tourists visited parks and reserves to cover all the costs of community outreach and education programmes. But that just doesn’t happen.”
Melissa Simpson, director of science-based conservation for the Safari Club International Foundation, argued similar points in a recent opinion piece for National Geographic’s website.
“As with the regulated hunters in the United States, the regulated hunters in Africa make a vital contribution to conservation efforts, primarily through the revenues their hunting expeditions generate for local communities and wildlife resource agencies,” she wrote.
In 2009, WWF sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in support of limited, managed hunting of black rhinos in Namibia.
“WWF believes that sport hunting of Namibia’s black rhino population will strongly contribute to the enhancement of the survival of the species,” the group wrote, citing the generation of income for conservation and the removal of postbreeding males.
The auction has set off something of a global debate.
Stephen Colbert took aim at the planned auction with his signature satire. “The Dallas Safari Club says they will save the black rhino by auctioning off the chance to shoot one. It’s like the old saying: If you love something set it free; then when it has a bit of a head start, open fire,” he said on air last week.
On the website Ecorazzi, which covers environmental issues with a pop culture twist, a reader wrote, “Ah, Texas! We Americans can be so proud! Hunters are not conservationists. Totally bizarre. Thank you for your good work!”
Those on both sides of the debate have taken to Twitter:
I say we auction off the chance to legally murder any poachers discovered hunting in the protected forests! Maybe then the world will be at balance.
Why not organise a real hunting game in Namibia with the hunters as the game. They can have handheld weapons like knives, but no guns. The hunters on the other hand can choose their weapon as they like. If those hunters really want a challenge, they would jump on this opportunity to be the game and show off their skills. Killing an innocent animal with an high-powered rifle is the same as squashing a mosquito. It's too easy.
Is this not perhaps 'attention seeking' or a publicity stunt? As someone suggested rather sell tickets to hunt down criminals on death row.. that would save the taxpayer a lot of money, save everyone a of trouble and quell the thirst of the blood lusty trigger happy boys.. kill two birds with one stone, haha! I'm sure the head of a psychopathic serial killer would be far more sensational mounted on your wall than a murdered innocent rhino that deserves to live a full life just like you and I! It would also please their mother-in-laws no end.. given them the opportunity of saying, 'I told you he was a dirty rotten swine!'
"I totally disagree with this,it is not the way to go and it should be immediately stopped .To the Government of Namibia do not allow this,if the said proposal/ agreeement would bring some money for conservation by taking down the Rhinos who are on the edge of extinction you better say a big No for there are other millions of ways to get the said money for conservation.Game hunting should be 100% banned on africa's mammals whose their population is dwindling.As a safari guide in Kenya,i would not like to take tourists out on safari who they would be killing animals in the name of conservation,i will never do that .Hundreds of thousands of people who have their dreams of coming to Africa on safaris would love to enjoy watching them while taking photographs,doing very little or no impact at all to their natural habitat and leaving the said creatures roaming about very freely.My challenge goes to DSC to instead raise awareness on the poaching menace in africa by collecting the said millions of dollars and injecting to conservation if they are for real after their population growth in future."Alfred Korir a safari guide in maasai mara kenya.
The non-sensical, irrational and emotive comments made by some people (Noni Rimbun - about hunters killing their children etc.) are very sad. Ditto the remarks made by IFAW et al in the main article. It does not add ANYTHING to rational debate or to conservation efforts. It exposes the elitist and preservationist mindset of people who do not live in Africa and do not understand the situation on the ground over here. Come over here, get the facts, get of your couches and go behind the scenes with the people who are at the coalface of the anti-poaching efforts every day. Then go and study the figures and the real threats to conservation. Then, maybe only then, and I say "maybe" because you sit in the USA or the UK or somewhere very far removed from it all, are you in a position to comment. IFAW etc are not conservation bodies like IUCN, WWF, CITES etc. They are animal rightists - something that just so happens to be a very big business. There is a big difference between the two. DSC and Namibia should be applauded for this!!! PS: Kenya historically had one of the biggest rhino populations in Africa. They stopped hunting there in 1977 at the behest of European NGO's and governments. In the early seventies there were about 20,000 black rhino there, today there are less than 600!!! Wake up people! Controlled, legal hunting does not pose any threat to Africa's wildlife - there is no scientific evidence to suggest this. Exponential population growth, habitat destruction, corruption and meddling by the green movement and first world governments (most of whom are totally uninformed) are the real threats.
I Support Dallas Safari Club, the statement is correct and its very common to see that behavior not even with rhinos, you can see it in other animals. Unfortunatelly all those people like Peta and HUSUS don't have a clue of how nature works but they know how to explote to their benefit the Bambi's mom death. Please, we need to get serious and stop trying to give animals a human status that they cannot have because its against their nature
Please sign this petition. The group can donate to rhino conservation without killing. And an animal can be separated from the herd without being shot and hanged on a wall. http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/stop-the-killing-of-an
Well, I supposed these hunters and auctioneers will also choose to kill their own children and parents, when the children or parents are non-productive or counter-productive, for the sake of other human population's growth. Even better, they will kill themselves for the same reason. Very noble!
Of course, the question is, who are we, to decide other individual's right to live or die? Maybe we thought, we were the ones who breathed the breath-of-life into this earth's inhabitants? ;)
When humans get involved in 'conservation' we create messes that only nature can clean up. Remember Yellowstones wolves? http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/in-the-valley-of-the-wolves/reintroduction-of-the-wolves/213/ This club is in it for sport and it is nothing more then legalized poaching
I understand the science-it's true that post-breeding males present a danger to youngsters in many mammalian species, however, culling as it is practiced on, for example, the Exmoor Pony, to improve the breeding stock etc, is carried out humanely, not for enormous profit and no export of trophies. It is the commercial aspects of hunting that have nearly driven this creature to extinction-this should be separated from a humane, scientifically conducted culling program to enhance the survival of young rhino.
Here's a NEW idea......
Let's have TWO " hunts." ........
The first "Winner" gets to kill the endangered RHINO and the BIGGEST "Winner" gets to kill the first winner......
That would create LOTS of money and attention!!
"I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely DESTRUCTIVE. We've created life in our own image."
The brilliant Professor, Astrophysicist, Cosmologist Stephen Hawking, who has himself lived for over 50 years now with ALS, much to the BENEFIT of Homo-sapiens.
what's the point in trying to conserve a species and it's future if we're then going to allow people to treat the individuals so badly? i understand the reasons for the auction (although i in no way agree with them) but you can't just think of the big picture, about breeding and IUCN lists. they're discussing an individual animal that simply doesn't deserve to be killed. i work with rhinos and feel very strongly about conservation and the complications and politics involved. however sometimes it should just be brought back to basics. auctioning the chance to shoot a wild animal is wrong no matter what the situation is
I wonder if crowd sourcing money to buy the permit and have the animal moved to another location in the wild or a zoo would be an alternative? I would donate to that cause..
They are rich, how about they donate money to conservation or rescue. There are much better ways then killing. Killing a Rhino is not sport they are not stealthy, they aren't going to outrun them or blend in. Come on this is idiotic.
Not sure how I feel about this one....... seems totally absurd, but then again, who knows at this point what is best for Rhinos..... nothing seems to be really working, perhaps drastic measures are necessary. I don't like the idea though.
I hate hunters so much, is there a more cowardly activity than shooting a defenseless animal with a gun? If these idiots from the safari club want to do something useful for the Rhino species how about setting up a hunt to gun down the poachers that are killing all the Rhinos? Surely that is more manly than killing a defenseless animal which is exactly why these cowards would never do it.
These people are absolutely disgusting. I would love a permit to shoot someone from the Dallas Safari Club. IDIOTS.
Please sign this change.org petition to try to stop Dallas Safari Club and help the critically endangered Black Rhino: http://www.change.org/petitions/dallas-safari-club-stop-auctioning-any-permits-for-the-killing-of-endangered-species-as-namibia-s-black-rhino-please-don-t-go-through-with-the-hunting-event-of-a-rare-critically-endangered-species-the-black-rhino
Killing under ANY circumstances is unacceptable. The rhinos should be allowed to survive or perish naturally. Surely there are more humane ways of raising money for conservation. Killing the animas you wish to protect is cruel.
As a Namibian, Im very proud that we have taken this step. But its just the first step hopefully. Full legalization will hopefully follow soon. If you look at the data for what legal, sanctioned and controlled hunting has done to various species across our country, this is likely to be a huge success. No one wants to see a dead rhino, but the current distorted market for horns (because its illegal) means that a rhino is worth more dead than alive. Currently it costs about R500 000.00 to buy a live rhino for your farm or game park. But the poachers can get up to R5 million for the horn (or more)... it becomes a no brainier for someone who does not care. The value means that poachers can afford to hire mercenaries, ex-special forces, helicopters, buy off policemen and ensure they get their product into Asia. Legalizing the hunt and hopefully the selling of the horn, will eventually allow for the two values (dead vs alive) to better coincide. This will simply kill the amount that poachers can justifiably invest into trying to get the horn. Plus farmers will have a huge insentive to get these animals on their game farms and reserves. And with the true value of a rhino being realized, those farms and reserves will be able to effectively protect their investment and thereby the species. Look at the case studies of so many other species of animals across Southern Africa in the last 10 years. This will likely increase not just the number but also the range of these animals. So once again... Bravo.
Why not make the auction open and have conservation groups bid swell for the rhino to be kept alive. Lets make a big deal of this issue and use it as an opportunity to raise rhino awareness no matter what the cost.
Dallas Safari Club or " The Dallas Suffering club ?" Get your Act right. There is enough money in the world. Let the animal live and die its natural death. Your argument is very similar to capital punishment and moves away from Humanitarian ground.
For everyone saying that hunting does not help conservation, consider that the North American Model of Game Management uses hunters as a management tool. Hunters are also the main spokesmen for conservation and taxes (Pittman-Robertson Act and Dingle-Johnson Act) on hunting gear they buy go directly to fund research and conservation.
While killing the rhino is unfortunate, a non-breeding male who hurts the fitness and recruitment of other rhinos is only detrimental to the overall population. If an animal is not contributing to the population by breeding then it is just using up more resources that could have gone to breeding individuals and their young. Also, if he is killing or attacking females and their calves, then he is directly harming the rhino population. Why not take away a non-contributing, harmful male and allow a younger, breeding, male to take over that area and boost the population by mating with the females there and producing offspring.
"Typically, the five Namibian permits that are issued each year are sold to local hunt operators, which then book clients from around the world. Those permits have typically gone for a few hundred thousand dollars."
The article does say that in the past, the hunting tags only went to local hunters anyways. So it is likely that someone would have shot the rhino anyway. Why not sell to people out of the country who may be wealthier than whoever booked the hunt from a local hunter? It's entirely possible that the price of the tag could go for much more money than seen before. The money will go towards conservation of the species at the expense of 1 (non-breeding) male.
I was being sarcastic, and some of my wordings choice probably hurt unintended party, like you. I apologize for that. However, I am still standing by my ethics. I choose preserving universally, as I don't have the right to decide any being's right to live or die.
I understand there is dilemma in the field. Auctioning 1 contra-productive rhino to be hunted for fun, and got the USD250K-1M in return, definitely can be used for many conservation efforts and at the same time got rid of the contra-productive individual who could kill productive younger generations. This seems like a logical choice. But again, who are we to decide other being's right to live or die?
I am not sitting in UK or US. I live in Indonesia, and our wild lives are facing the same threats from all aspects you said above, exponential human population growth, habitat destruction, a lot from multinational companies' farming and forestry practices, corruption by communities in all level, including individual like myself.
Our Park Rangers live very dangerous lives. Literally, they fight people with big money and power in daily basis, in protecting the Park's wild lives. Our own Javan Rhino population is now only at 40-50 in the wild. Dead Rhino body parts are sold for the traditional Chinese medicine market.
We have been driving many creatures to their extinctions, by our selfishness; be it using the reason of our health, or our safety, or delicious food, or like in this article, for fun/sport traded with money. All reasons had their valid justifications, but when we are willing to trace them deeper, with conscience, all these reasons really rooted in one thing, that is ignorance (to ignore). And the more we allow ourselves acting with ignorance, the more selfish we will be, and at the end, we are all destroyed, together.
@El Mecanico Animals are far more forgiving and for more tolerant than humans. If you want to "understand" animals as animal lovers like myself do then observe them instead of trying to kill them. I have yet to witness an animal that is as purely evil as a human.
"Stop trying to give animals a human status that they cannot have because its against their nature."
Absolutely, No other animal species other than Homo sapiens give themselves literal heart attacks in mass numbers every year .....from the "high" of hunting, murdering and slaughtering other species for "sport."
Seems ANY excuse will do for MAN to feel POWERFUL by murdering/slaughtering a multi TON animal to feel "BIG" himself.
Mother Nature fixes all.
"We lost our necessary balance of wildlife when we hit 5 billion people. We are now at 7 billion and counting and on our way to 9 billion when......"
Marilyn vos Savant, highest IQ in the world
@Daryl Johanssen Correct, that's why this hunt is happening, a different thinking.
The old thinking was to ban hunting completely.
Conservation experts are now changing their thinking to accept the benefits of scientifically guided hunting.
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, US Fish and Wildlife Service, International Union for Conservation of Nature, World Wildlife Fund, all accept and support limited hunting of this type as beneficial to the species.
“WWF believes that sport hunting of Namibia’s black rhino population will strongly contribute to the enhancement of the survival of the species,” the group wrote, citing the generation of income for conservation and the removal of postbreeding males."
@Clinton Bumpurs Unless you want to move it to a location with no other Rhinos, it's not an alternative.
I don't think many Zoos are interested in a Sterile Adult Male with a history of killing other Rhinos...
Give them a reason to donate $125,000 to $250,000 per animal. No one does that kind of money "just because". They have to really want to. You can't shame someone into donating that much. You can't get someone to pay that much to get a picture of it. And even if you do, you still have a "problem animal" to deal with.
How hard is it to understand that the animals they are talking about have a history of killing other rinos? Is losing 2 or 3 young (breeding age) rinos a year somehow "better" than this one (non breeding age) rino being killed, just because it would be killed by a hunter and the others are killed by another rino?
@SillyMe Burton "The black rhino’s secretive habits and aggressive nature make it one of the most dangerous and difficult big-game animals to kill."
@SillyMe Burton Killing any animal with a gun is not "sport". It's an act of a pure coward. If you want to make it a "sport" hunt with your bare hands so the animal has a chance to defend itself.
@Carina Borralho I would put in a bid for that one.
@Stand4Earth YTYTYTY Signed on 10/29
@Gayatri Narayanan “WWF believes that sport hunting of Namibia’s black rhino population will strongly contribute to the enhancement of the survival of the species,” the group wrote, citing the generation of income for conservation and the removal of postbreeding males."
This isn't just about raising money, it's also about removing a Sterile Dominant Male so that younger fertile bulls have a better chance to breed.
It's about increasing reproduction rates and population growth in a slow breeding species.
@Billy Coetzee I live in the US and there are many, many times I'm very ashamed to say that, this is one of those times.
@Jan-Barend Scheepers Interesting idea, though it would be hard for rhino lovers to stomach commodifying them.
That will work, and I'm sure be acceptable ONLY if the Rino is removed from the area and relocated to where it cannot harm other rhinos, people or other animals. The conservation bid would have to include the capture & relocation costs (the hunter takes care of the costs of the hunt and disposal of the remains - which usually feed the local village).
@C. Dufour How is keeping a sterile male with a history of killing members of his species alive and free beneficial to the species survival?
"The club said that the hunt would target an older, postbreeding male black rhino (a bull), an animal with a reputation for being territorial and for even occasionally charging and killing younger bulls, cows, or calves."
“WWF believes that sport hunting of Namibia’s black rhino population will strongly contribute to the enhancement of the survival of the species,” the group wrote, citing the generation of income for conservation and the removal of postbreeding males."
@C. Dufour That's an interesting idea.
@Rachel Portwood Yeah, north american hunting has done such a great job of "management" that most species are down to less 10% of their range and in many states animals that were once abundant are now nearly extinct. You hunters are pure scum!
@Rachel Portwood Yes, the North American method of harvesting animals works. But, it is not used to kill off animals that are on the endangered lists. It is to reduce the population of deer and other animals which are overgrazing their environment, and this, of course, makes all the animals on the range suffer, due lack of food. It causes less healthy animals. Harvesting these animals has become necessary, due to the lack of natural enemies which used to kill them off, to eat.
This does not appear to be the case with the rhino. From the numbers on the map, it appears that there are around 4,000 existing black rhino in their natural habitats. Surely one more lone bull will not disturb the balance. One other thought is that if these countries want money to save the animals, then they should encourage more visitors: by making their areas safer for those visitors (not from animals, but from humans), and charging less for those same visitors. Less charges equal more visitors equal more profits.
Tell that to the hunters who have been killed by Rino, Elephant, Lion, Leopard and Cape Buffalo. They aren't called the Big Five for size. They are called that as they are the five most difficult to hunt on foot. Not because they are hard to find, or hard to get close to. Because they are hard to get close enough to kill, and suceed at killing, without winding up in a box yourself.
As to bidding on having the animal transported to a zoo, that would be a viable alternative. You'll raise little money past that required to do it if there is no one to bid against (especially if it is several a year and every year). But if you can find a zoo that will accept it, and want to crowd source a bid for the "tag", go for it. i wish you scincer good luck (the conservation effort wins either way).
@Brian Howard @Jan-Barend Scheepers Thanks Brian, but unfortunately as much as we want to believe the world and everything in it is not a comodity, it is a lie. We can try our best to say that the world is a place where things will exist indefenatly just for the sake of existance, but it will be in vain. This nice thought is born out of never having been on the ground with the problem and actually knowing the real situation. This move will effectively empower the rhino species to "buy" the land they reside on. I hate to say it, but money talks and we will have to become more pragmatic and less emotional if the Rhino has any chance at all. Its about saving the species, that is it...
Compare the conservation sucess of the California Condor and that of the wild Turkey. Both were threatened. One was managed as a game animal by hunting groups. One as an endagered animal by conservation groups prohibiting hunting. One I can take my family on a drive int he country and see almost at will. One is only able to be viewed (outside of zoos) by a remote web cam and is still considered endangered.
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