National Geographic News
Photo of a black rhino in Namibia.

A permit was sold to hunt and kill an endangered black rhino like this one in Namibia.

Photograph by Theo Allofs, Corbis

Brian Clark Howard

National Geographic

Published January 13, 2014

A controversial auction for a hunting permit in Africa concluded this past weekend in Texas.

On Saturday evening the Dallas Safari Club (DSC) awarded the permit—which allows a hunter to kill one black rhinoceros, an endangered species, in Namibia—to the auction's anonymous winner for a reported $350,000. The club had said it hoped to raise between $250,000 and $1 million.

Soon after the auction, the winner was reportedly identified by a fellow hunter.

"Well, I was willing to go $340,000 for the black rhino, but Corey Knowlton went $350,000 and won the bid!" hunter Wes Mundy posted on the Facebook page for San Antonio-based Double Diamond Outfitters. "Plus there was another $100,000 donation!! DSC and their supporters came through in a huge way for conservation again tonight!!"

A minister from Namibia was reportedly "jumping up and down in elation at the result because the funds go to conservation efforts in the country." (Read more about the controversy surrounding the hunt.)

Guns for Conservation?

The DSC says all proceeds from the auctioned permit—one of five Namibia will allow this year—will go to support the Conservation Trust Fund for Namibia's Black Rhino.

The DSC has not returned a request for comment. The group had previously argued that the hunt will help wildlife officials manage the endangered animals and bring in much-needed funds for conservation efforts.

The auction took place during the club's 2014 meeting at the Dallas Convention Center, where security was on high alert after the DSC told the FBI that it had received "death threats" from animal activists over the auction.

One of the email threats said, "For every rhino you kill, we will kill a member of the club."

The permit was the first of its kind to be sold outside Namibia, though Americans have participated in legal rhino hunts there after obtaining permits through local brokers.

According to media reports, Knowlton is an active hunter who arranges hunts around the world. He is a consultant with the Hunting Consortium and has been linked to the company Sonoran Ultimate Hunting in Prescott Valley, Arizona, which arranges deer hunting trips in Mexico. The website coreyknowlton.com redirects viewers to the company's website, sonoranultimatehunting.net.

Outcry Increases

The nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund condemned the auction, saying it "could set a dangerous precedent for similar hunting clubs seeking to profit from selling rare permits to kill endangered animals."

The group's executive director, Stephen Wells, said, "The Dallas Safari Club should respect the intent of international regulations that attempt to conserve and protect endangered animals who should be preserved in the wild, not stuffed by a taxidermist for a Texan's trophy room."

The "hacktivist" group Anonymous is reportedly targeting hunters involved with the auction through its OpFunKill effort on animal welfare. The group claims it has disrupted Internet service on the websites Nambia.com, dallasconventioncenter.com, and dallasonlineauctioncompany.com.

In a manifesto, the group wrote: "Unspeakable and terrible things happen every second of every day while the whole planet is forced to watch, as these cold hearted soulless zombies cause horrific suffering and death to animals, both common, vulnerable and critically endangered species."

Last week Jeff Flocken, the North American regional director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, wrote in a NationalGeographic.com blog post that "the idea of creating a bidding war for the opportunity to gun down one of the last of a species ostensibly in the name of conservation is perverse and dangerous to buy into."

Flocken wrote, "If an animal like the rare black rhinoceros is worth the most with a price on its head, what possible incentive does this provide range countries and local people to move the species toward recovery when the biggest buck can be made short-term by selling permits to kill them to the highest bidders?"

He added that there are an estimated 1,800 black rhinos left in Namibia, out of a worldwide population of 5,055. The total figure represents a decline of about 96 percent over the past century, driven largely by habitat loss, poaching, and, in recent years, a market for the animals' horns in Asia.

Follow Brian Clark Howard on Twitter and Google+.

50 comments
Caribou Steaks
Caribou Steaks

I say shoot the dang beast. Ain't doing no good out there anyway except preventing the young bulls from gettin' lucky.  At least this way the ol' thing will create some good for the park and other black rhinos units.  Heck they could sell the horn to the chinese and double their money, sell the meat probably and toes and all and really do well.  Them oriental types love that stuff.  Hunting is a part of game management and NO ANIMAL is free and not management by the country it runs in.  A poacher pays no money, PETA and all the left wing nuts pay NO MONEY to save rhinos or the like.  But hunters sure do.  hunters pay big money for management and growth of wildlife and thats a good thing.  The stem in poaching and increase in black rhino now is ONLY because of hunters dollars, otherwise they'd probably all be bush meat by now.  Hell they should video the dude blasting it and sell the movie rights, make millions on the YouTube advertising.  This animal could save the whole species.

Lisa Diessel
Lisa Diessel

Do a search for "black rhino petition".  A number of different petitions protesting this practice will come up.  If enough people say no, maybe someone out there will think twice?  It's not a perfect solution, but a step up from just arguing.

Jim Gobetz
Jim Gobetz

It's inside a fence, it can't get away. It's a fish in a barrel. Therefore, it's not a hunt, it's a kill. Hunting implies you don't know exactly where the F*** it is when you take your high powered rifle with the scope and kill the hapless creature from a safe distance. Furthermore, the perpetrator of this nonsense must be referred to as the killer, not the hunter, of this animal in any media reports. It is a gutless, needless, immoral, and inhumane act of killing.

Fiona Duthie
Fiona Duthie

We really need to step up our efforts to save the Rhino.

Dave Johnson
Dave Johnson

This is just nuts.  If you are really interested in conservation, let the rhino live and just donate the money to the cause.  If you need to shoot something, why not clay pigeons that are moving instead of an old rhino that is standing there looking at you.  Really brave men here.

Edward Pride
Edward Pride

Far more money could be raised by dropping Corey off without his gun and let him go one on one with the big guy.  it might make for some pretty good reality tv, and bring in much more that 350K.  I think Namibia needs a good production company instead of this.  Come on hollywood, step up and help the situation out a bit.

Joseph Kenny
Joseph Kenny

How insecure you must be as a man to want to do something like this. Killing an animal like that doesn't make you a man. If I had that kind of money I would pay the $350,000 and not shot the animal. That would be the right thing to do. The rhino could live out the rest of it's life ;instead, of being a trophy in some insecure man's trophy room.

Ferdinando Cosentino
Ferdinando Cosentino

At this point, we can only pray for human extinction, the best thing it could ever happen for this planet.

Randy Fehr
Randy Fehr

Although I do not like hunting, or even a few hunters, I do not oppose hunting. Really this is only one rhino that will eventually die anyway. It may die of disease, starvation, crippling old age, or being killed by an elephant (it happens). In any case to be killed by a hunter with a rifle is a far kinder death than any of the other ways that an animal could go.Also, if this animal is of trophy status, as it likely will be, then it has already passed on all of the genetic matter that it ever will.Killing this one animal will do no harm, and the money raised could do far more good if used correctly .Legitimate hunting done within the framework of the law, when advised by proper conservationists will never endanger an entire species, but poachers will.Focus your attention on stopping poachers. Leave legal hunters alone.

Daniel Francis
Daniel Francis

There is no argument that can convince me that killing any animal for fun could possibly be justified.


There are many other ways of raising funds for conservation and if Namibia wanted it could easily allocate funds of this size to conservation -  this has nothing to do with conservation but more about power, greed and sick-minded people abusing the natural world for their own entertainment.


Shame on everyone involved.

Sreenivas Janyala
Sreenivas Janyala

`` A minister was reportedly  jumping up and down in elation at the result because the funds go to conservation efforts in the country."   KILL TO CONSERVE? YOU WANT TO KILL SOME TO CONSERVE OTHERS? AND WHO ARE THOSE TWO GUYS WHO COMPETED FOR THE TOP HONOR? THE GUY WHO WON WILL PUT A BULLET IN THE RHINO'S HEAD AND FEEL ELATED? WOW, I DID IT!!?? WHO IS THE UNWANTED ANIMAL HERE? 

Bellz Webster
Bellz Webster

As already suggested why kill the animal? Why not have a dart tranquilizer gun and once shot it can be tagged and released. What disturbs me the most is that hunters of any animal seem to think its some sort of joyous victory to have killed an animal. A black rhino is supposed to be near extinct. Where are the laws that protect it? Personally i find it sickening of someone to find it 'fun' to kill an animal just for the heck of it. If anyone has the amount of money these two hunters have they could just donate to the cause and live a life with a clear conscious.

Mark Thorpe
Mark Thorpe

Why not simply donate to the conservation drive without killing the animal? If these people want use the word Conservation in any way, shape or form it should be employed under the auspices of its true intention, not to camouflage their burning desire for bragging rights.


Let the animal die with dignity, naturally on the plains of Africa to which it was born.

Ann Topmiller
Ann Topmiller

The "winner" is a coward and the club is every bit as bad as a scumsucking poacher. SHAME ON EVERYONE involved with this money-grubbing fiasco.

Steven Jennings
Steven Jennings

It's past the point of alarming now isn't it? Now it's just sad! It's extremely disturbing to read and watch what's going on with with the Rhino population. Can anyone post anything about what the everyday concerned individual can do if anything? It sucks to realize species around the world are going extinct or are on the verge, and Rhinos have no natural predators except for man!

Hairyman Bushcraft
Hairyman Bushcraft

I think NatGeo might be better serving their audience by further educating people on the history of conservation programs in Africa. Would be good to see some explanation of how preservationism has failed for locals, resulting in anger, poverty and poaching. 

Real practical conservationists, unlike Animal Rights Activists and other fake charities can see the benefits here. They aren't looking for donations because they have a sustainable business, so they don't spend a lot of money making people dumber and more fearful. NatGeo could fill the gap with some informative articles.

Robert Keller
Robert Keller

The problem is people tend to yell and cry about these hunts, ok so you don't like hunting these animals. No problem, then you and your groups need to fork over the money that is needed to protect the animals from poachers and purchase land for these animals to roam on. If you can do that then the government would be willing to stop such hunts. Unfortunately people tend not to put their money where their mouth is, reason why in many nations across the globe rare and endangered animals are being poached and/or driven to extinction due to habitat loss. You want to save them, then you need to pay for them. Right now that isn't happening so the government has had to look for outside funding to pay for animal protectors (rangers used to protect and engage poachers in actual gun battles in some cases) and to buy land from farmers to be used as conservation land. I don't agree with the hunt of this animal but I see the reasoning behind it.

Becky Blankenship
Becky Blankenship

The permit should have been sold as a "tranquilizer only" hunt . That way the animal could be tagged by a biological team and then monitored.

Liane Brewer
Liane Brewer

I think the comments on this issue are worth thinking about. This is not

the answer to conserving and preserving this species. It appears that

money and greed go above empathy and compassion fo an already

endangered species

Juan Rodriguez
Juan Rodriguez

An animal shouldn't be propriety of a government, all the world is needing a conserves scientist's group with the authority to protect all the species around the blue planet. We need a change, in our minds.

Sarah Armstrong
Sarah Armstrong

@Randy Fehr are u serious??? just because its legal does not make it ok for poachers.. not hunters to go kill endangered species for money and a trophy. thats disgusting and a waste of a life. 

Jim Gobetz
Jim Gobetz

@Randy Fehr How sir is this a hunt? They know exactly where the animal is, this guy will be taken to it in an air conditioned Range Rover, he will be protected by armed local guides at all times and he will be armed with a high powered rifle, and he will more than likely shoot the animal from a very safe location. This is a kill, nothing more, to call it a hunt is at best disingenuous. 

Dru Manley
Dru Manley

Were you dropped on your head as a child?

Aaron Craig
Aaron Craig

@Daniel Francis

"Ben Carter, executive director of the Safari Club, has defended the auction. He said all money raised will go toward protecting the species. He also said the rhino that the winner will be allowed to hunt is old, male and nonbreeding — and that the animal was likely to be targeted for removal anyway because it was becoming aggressive and threatening other wildlife."

Not only does the money goes to preservation and protection of the species, the hunt is actually sanctioned and will be coordinated by the wildlife preserve organization in Africa, and the bull rhino being hunted was going to be killed by the preserve organization anyway due to it's aggressive territorial nature, which can prevent the younger bull rhinos from breeding and extending the population of the species. 

To put it bluntly: this animal would have been shot in any case. This way it just makes $350,000 more for the preservation of the said species.

Jonathan Fuller
Jonathan Fuller

@Sreenivas Janyala again uneducated comment... Listen you get your jollies off one way he does another. Fact still remains that the Rhino would be killed in the interest of saving the population as a whole. You're upset with the method? Go raise $350k next year when they auction 5 more the same way they've done for years and you can bring him home to live with you... 

Jd Creager
Jd Creager

@Bellz WebsterIN many case there is a dart and release program. The fac

t this is for an older animal that may pass away in the next 12 months saves the animal as a trophy in place of it rotting away. Another thing is an amount of land will only support a certain number of animals.

Jd Creager
Jd Creager

@Mark Thorpe Do you know the difference in CONSERVATION and PRESERVATION? You have the two confused.


Jonathan Fuller
Jonathan Fuller

@Steven Jennings  actually they are their own largest natural predator. 50‰ of male Black Rhino deaths are caused by older more territorial bulls. 30% of female deaths are of the same. Regardless of what you think about hunting or this auction the fact remains that these folks generated a large donation for something that the government of Namibia would have done anyway regardless of donation. Because scientifically it's what is necessary in order to maintain the population. They don't pick that 5 number out of their ass. They've been doing this for years which is what has accounted for the population taking a much needed turn from 2700 in the late 90s. Actually big game hunting (according to savetherhinos.org) is credited as one of the single largest factors leading to the White Rhino no longer being endangered. 


People should read more before they speak... The only thing I find alarming is that it's still socially acceptable in this country to kill unborn children but using science and economics to provide conservation for an animal population has everyone's panties in a bunch...

Hairyman Bushcraft
Hairyman Bushcraft

@Steven Jennings

Basically there is nothing much you can do. Any donation you give will go to a Western charity will go on administration (the CEOs salary) and marketing (for more donations for the CEOs salary).


Extinction shouldn't be an issue as long as this business is allowed to continue and not interfered with by ill-informed protests or boycotts, no farmer kills their entire livelihood for a few quick bucks. The land in private reserves continues to grow and the situation continues to improve in countries across Africa, anywhere active conservation management has taken the place of imposed preservationism.

Jd Creager
Jd Creager

@Hairyman Bushcraft  Yes if they will do an honest article on what Conservation vs. preservation is they you too may learn.

Namibia now has legal Cheetah hunting, verse other countrie with the preservation idieals.


Robert Wells Jr.
Robert Wells Jr.

@Robert Keller You are a hunter, you could care less, about the endangerment of an animal about to go extinct. So easy to tell what side you fail on.

Aaron Ward
Aaron Ward

@Robert Keller Your point is sound and intelligent, that of a businessman. But as a compassionate human being you couldn't be more lost and wrong. 

Brenda V.
Brenda V.

There are thousands of dollars put into conservation. It just isnt ever enough. Dont think we aren't all donating where we can. That rich a**hole could have given the money without wanting to kill an animal for it. Thats if he truly cared about conservation. But he doesn't. He cares about hunting.

Brett Clair
Brett Clair

@Robert Keller What happens when the right to hunt humans goes to the highest bidder? Do you have enough money to pay for your own life? Why should money be the only factor in the preservation of anyone or anything?

Case Wyatt
Case Wyatt

@Becky BlankenshipDarting wild animals isn't particularly safe for the animal and the scientists involved.  It isn't like a lab or clinical environment where you have technology available for constant information on the patient's health.  On top of that, you're relying on someone's subjective calculation of the animal's size in the 1st place to determine dosage. Not to say it isn't a better plan than killing it. But it is still unnecessarily stressing the animal.

Louie Lim
Louie Lim

@Becky Blankenship that's a sound idea, if only they've thought about that. i really can't see the point of conservation if in the first place one allows a senseless killing of an animal that's being conserved... kind of ironic in a sense, isn't it?

Hairyman Bushcraft
Hairyman Bushcraft

@Juan Rodriguez

Unfortunately when outside groups come in and tell locals what to do, while locking up their land. The result is all too predictable with the animals status as nuisance increasing to the point that people actively poach them just to make the preservationists go away.

Instead real conservation initiates are opting for bringing locals into the fold, giving them a sustainable resource to participate in the management and profit from the harvest.This creates value throughout the system for undeveloped habitat and biodiversity which has been shown to be an effective strategy where imposed approaches have failed or prove unsustainable when donations move onto the next fad.


They might be "dumb fat rich white men" and trophy hunting might be something few of us can understand, yet the market they provide will prove key to ensuring the continued survival of biodiversity and the "big 5" on the African sub-continent.


A poacher with a job as a game warden is no longer a threat. A farmer who benefits from a reserve is not a threat to habitat. A village that profits from nuisance animals is not a threat.

Doug Scott
Doug Scott

@Jonathan Fuller@Sreenivas Janyala  

History and mother nature have been handling the natural lifespan of all animals since before humans even appeared.  Taking that bull rhino is not being done for the good of the herd, it is simply being used as sacrificial lamb.  The actions of the bull that is being used as a reason to remove it, are actually there to teach younger males how to become dominant in that herd.  It happens naturally, does not require us to be referees or coaches.  

Anyone saying hunting is a sport is quite simply wrong.  Sport implies either side can win.  Hunting with a long range rifle against a large animal who's only defense is to try to hide out in an open field is in no way a fair sport.  Let the hunter take the bull rhino with a knife, now that would be a sport.

Kelvin Burt
Kelvin Burt

@Jd Creager @Mark Thorpe

' Jd Creager' are you a hunter yourself? I suspect so.

Well if you really feel the need to make up for what you are lacking as man, put down your big noisy gun, and go kill a rhino with your bare hands. Then we may respect you. But not much.

Retard

Jonathan Fuller
Jonathan Fuller

@Robert Wells Jr. @Robert Keller I'm a hunter? Really? I had no idea... Oh wait that's right you have about as much an idea of who I am as you do about this topic. No actually I've never hunted an animal in my life. I however am someone that is sick and tired of uneducated people roaming the world like zombies with sticks up their a**. Listen, spend the 10 hours I did researching the subject and then we can come back and have an intelligent debate. Why would I spend 10 hours of my time researching something like this? Because I actually care about the state of our culture and the world we live in. Knowledge is like food. When you put s*** in you'll get s*** out... 


Btw. You might want to do a little reading about the white rhino population and what brought it back from the brink of extinction. While you're at it maybe read up a little on Ducks Unlimited. Then you'd be better equipped to put fingers to keyboard. . . 

Jonathan Fuller
Jonathan Fuller

@Brett Clair @Robert Keller this comment is just silly... Someone with enough money that wanted to take the trouble to kill you or I would... They don't need an auction for that. Put down your copy of bowling for columbine and get back to the real world. 

Hairyman Bushcraft
Hairyman Bushcraft

@Brett Clair@Robert KellerBecause money is the only factor in the destruction of their habitat. 

Until that changes this will be the most effective way to combat the negative impacts of poverty and growth.


Preservation is not conservation.

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