National Geographic News
A photo of a black rhinoceros.

A black rhinocerous stands in front of a gathering of trees in Kenya's Aberdare National Park.

PHOTOGRAPH BY STEVE RAYMER, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Brian Clark Howard

National Geographic

Published January 17, 2014

The death threats against Corey Knowlton have escalated, even as the hunter defends his right to shoot an African black rhinoceros as a way to raise money for conservation.

Knowlton paid $350,000 on Saturday for the right to one of five permits issued this year to shoot an endangered black rhino in Namibia, as part of the first auction for such a hunt held in the U.S. The auction sponsor, the Dallas Safari Club, says 100 percent of the proceeds will go to conserving rhinos in Namibia.

But some conservation groups have condemned the hunt as sending the wrong signal about saving endangered species.

Dallas-based Knowlton, 35, was identified as the auction winner on social media, and he is currently holed up in a hotel room in Las Vegas, according to media reports.

He contacted the FBI about an onslaught of death threats against him and his family, and he has retained a private security firm for protection.

On his Facebook page, Knowlton wrote, "I am considering all sides and concerns involved in this unique situation. Please don't rush to judgment with emotionally driven criticism towards individuals on either sides of this issue. I deeply care about all of the inhabitants of this planet and I am looking forward to more educated discussion regarding the ongoing conservation effort for the Black Rhino."

On that same Facebook page, one person wrote, "You are a BARBARIAN. People like you need to be the innocent that are hunted."

Another wrote, "I find you and I will KILL you." And another: "I have friends who live in the area and will have you in there [sic] sights also."

One woman added, "A hunter afraid of being hunted?! How do you think the rhino feels idiot?"

Knowlton Responds

Knowlton is a consultant for the Hunting Consortium, an international guide service, and a co-host on a hunting show on the Outdoor Channel called Jim Shockey's The Professionals. He says he has hunted more than 120 species on almost every continent.

In response to his critics, Knowlton told CNN: "I respect the black rhino. A lot of people say, 'Do you feel like a bigger man?' or 'Is this a thrill for you?' The thrill is knowing that we are preserving wildlife resources, not for the next generation, but for eons."

He called himself a "passionate conservationist" who "believes in the cycle of life." Knowlton and the Dallas Safari Club have said the hunt will target an older male rhino that is no longer able to reproduce, and will therefore not hurt the status of the species, which is embattled partly because of poaching for its valuable horns.

Conservation Debate

Some conservation groups, such as the WWF and Save the Rhino, have expressed support for such limited, controlled hunts if they raise money for conservation. But animal advocates like the Humane Society of the United States and the International Fund for Animal Welfare have loudly condemned the practice.

Jeff Flocken, North American director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, told National Geographic that hunting sends a signal to world markets that the animal is worth more dead than alive. Conservation efforts should focus more on ecotourism and photo safaris, he said.

The Dallas Safari Club says not enough money is raised that way. 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."

Still, Dereck Joubert, a conservation filmmaker and National Geographic explorer-in-residence, disagrees with the hunting tradeoff, criticizing what he calls "conservation by the gun."

Regardless of the debate, it's clear the rhino hunt auction has touched a nerve with many people who care about animals and conservation.

Read previous articles:

Rhino Hunt Auction Stirs More Controversy

Death Threats Seen Over Rhino Hunt Auction

Black Rhino Hunt Won't Help Conservation (Opinion)

Rhino Hunt Permit Auction Sets Off Conservation Debate

Follow Brian Clark Howard on Twitter and Google+.

25 comments
julie Keeney
julie Keeney

And if they really truly are problem rhinos, just move them.  They do it all the time.  They  can probably move one out of there easy for 350,000.  But who will then be there to make sure the next males that take power are tough enough and strong enough to do the job.  Maybe there's a reason for what they do, governed by nature, who is always smarter than we are.  Sometimes I think our need to interfere is uncontrollable.  If we would just get the hell out of their habitat and leave them alone, they would probably do much better, even better than having armed guards watching over them day and night.  We are definitely the problem, not the bully rhinos, but aren't we always. 

julie Keeney
julie Keeney

If he were a real man, he would have bought all five tickets, since he obviously has lots of disposable money, he would have bought all the tickets and then tore them up.  If I had the money, that's what I would do with it.  Nothing ever gets done in this world, politically or socially, until the masses actually demand it. 

Louise Dickinson
Louise Dickinson

Since the auction i have been following Corey Knowlton's FB page.  and speaking to his followers and others who are not...   Corey has admitted that he will now kill the officially extinct, the Black Rhino,  one of the last on earth , and film it . Corey works for a Hunting TV Chanel in America.   The questions everyone should be asking is : is this morally right, is it sending the right message to the world? ... and is this going to happen to every time ,  extinct animals on earth and in Africa ? .. are people going to expect one of them,  to be killed for a TV programme.?   At first i believed from my research that this was all about Trophy Hunting , and bringing in the body parts of the animal back to America .  But, since following every thread, i have learnt it is really about filming the animals death, for TV programme ... one of the rarest animals on earth.. I am outraged, and so should the world be too. 

Marc Orr
Marc Orr

Taking a look at the situation, the Rhino's are now in the late stages of their lives where they can no longer reproduce but still combat the younger rhinos to show sexual and territorial dominance. I agree that nature has it's way, the circle of life has been there long before humans have, but in this situation we have endangered animals killing more of its kind without benefiting its kind in anyway.
People who kill people are put in prison or to death. Nature will find its way, but there is no reason to allow rhino's who kill their own to be with their own, especially as an endangered species. 

Now conserving the animal is a possibility, I strongly agree, but where will the money come from? $350 000 is a lot of money for one person but lets divide that up by 4000 because giving the money to one rhino or the 5 in this case would not benefit the species whatsoever. 
Separating them and using them as a tourist attraction, ok sounds acceptable, but clearly the 4000 rhinos aren't attracting enough people to go with donations, what will make these 5 so special that will bring in enough money to conserve the rest?

What I can say is the biggest problem with this money is that there is no way of knowing that "100% will go to the conservation of Rhino's". This is politics, and there is no chance in hell that all the money will go to one place. There will be admin fees, processing fees, labor fees, etc... Meaning some BS that the association will write on paper to justify the pocketing of this money that is meant for good. 

I understand the anger that people are having towards Mr. Knowlton because of his "Trophy Room", but at least he is trying to give something back. This is a big issue because of its recent coverage in the media, but if some would dig back on the topic you will find that this has gone on since the late 60's, where no one was donating such an amount for these permits. 

Now if the letter from the Live Trophy group is true to their word and they have a solution to keeping the animals alive and conserving them then all measure should be taken to do so, but if the animals are meant to be put down because of their behavior then there is no reason for this uproar on wanting them as a trophy for the price of $350 000. A dead animal is no lesser dead on a wall then in the ground. 

Hilde Marinette
Hilde Marinette

If Corey would be a real man, and if he really would care so much about the Black Rhino as he claims to do, he would right now, after all this publicity and comments understand that the world is not pleased with this planned killing. He would also know and understand that a free born and in the wild living animal does not BELONG to any HUMAN. IT is NOT PROPERTY that can be taken or can be sold by lots of money! It is not, because of the fact, that you can pay $ 350,000.00 for a ticket and still have enough to live from, that you have the right to go out and KILL that endangered Rhino to bring back home the trophy and add it to your personal collection of before killed animals. I believe that Corey, used all this money, for the thrill, and to be able to say one day : yes I killed a Black Rhino... i was so lucky that i could do that before he went extinct...

Money talks, right? if you put the right amount of money on the table, you get whatever you want...whenever you want....

Please do not play the poor victim Corey, the real victims are all the poor animals you have killed in your life for NO REASON at all. I call this murder...it has nothing to do with hunting; hunting is to keep yourself alive when you have no $$ to pay for your food..

Also, we humans should not disturb wildlife; nature can very well take care of itself. There is no reason to move the old rhino away; 

There is actually 1 thing we humans should do...stay out of the wild in Africa. PERIOD. 

Louise Dickinson
Louise Dickinson

Dallas Safari Club auctions rights to kill Black Rhino, in order to raise money to save Black Rhinos!!!!  
This is like shooting your spouse to raise awareness of domestic violence 
or giving money to Save The Children in order to abuse a child 
Whoever , thought this was a good idea , was a bit misguided,  of course the world is outraged , not just for the Rhinos but for the 120 animals including many land giants , this monster has declared killing around the world , in the name of so called conservation, for photos of him leering over  a carcass and to collect a trophy .  This mindless slaughter a worrying trend in America ,  has no place in the 21st Century especially , when so many animals are having problems surviving because of  exploitation and change of habitat because of human population expansion.  The Rhino's  fate could be different , African sanctuaries are offering to take the animal away from the herd instead of Corey Knowlton killing it , he has been given a chance to choose an alternative  , Clearly, he will have to change his ways , and give up the only chance for him to add  a Black Rhino , and yet another photo and trophy to his morbid collection.  

Keryn Adcock
Keryn Adcock

Corey has made a valued contribution to rhino conservation in this case. Removal of specific individual males surplus to the population's social and reproductive requirements improves the prospects and calf production of  the population, and is a necessary part of responsible population management.  


By trophy-hunting this animal, funds can be obtained to help continue with the vital expensive year in year out  monitoring, protection and management of this species toward increasing its numbers. 


The fact is that the loss of this one individual rhino is in no way detrimental and in fact will assist the increase of Namibia and Africa's rhino. Limited, targeted and responsible trophy hunting as part of herd management is importantly vastly different to the indiscriminate slaughter by poaching where profit is the only motive. 


It is important that people understand the difference - responsible trophy hunters are not the enemy. To properly protect the rhino we have far more serious and dangerous enemies to fight, involved in large scale illegal wildlife trafficking, corruption and other linked crimes.  Don't dilute the essential effort in this war.



Johannes Haasbroek
Johannes Haasbroek

Open Letter to Corey Knowlton:

Dear Corey,
We, the Live Trophy group, represent several concerned conservationists and wildlife organisations, and wish to open a dialogue with you with a view to:
A. Purchasing the trophy hunt permit for the Black Rhino you have recently acquired,
B. Discuss alternatives to the killing of this magnificent animal.
We wish to present you with an exciting opportunity to participate in a new and progressive approach to conserving endangered species.
Corey, you, more than most, will realise the value of developing new conservation methods that are consistent with the values of conservationists protecting our endangered species and with the ideals of the trophy hunting industry.
You are now in the position where on-selling that hunting permit, or donating it, will ensure the survival of a Black rhino and help forge a new partnership between us.
Real power is deciding to preserve a life...
You have a lot to gain by such a humane action.
Let's fight alongside with this innovative win-win approach, and gain valuable public approval from both sides of the trophy-hunting debate.
By prolonging the life of this Rhino, you can do so much more for the survival of the species, than merely gaining another lifeless trophy.
You will realise the marketing possibilities of such a public-spirited action. Instead of only providing the thrill of a once-off hunt, the Rhino can serve as a living, breathing trophy that you and countless others can interact with for the rest of his natural life.
Therefore:
We wish to facilitate the purchase from you, or ask you to donate, the hunting permit for one black rhino that you successfully acquired at the recent auction.
We are prepared to negotiate a price and timeline to completing a purchase, as well as any other aspects related to this issue.
Our goal:
To ensure this old rhino lives out its life in a similar habitat, as nature has intended.
We will arrange for its relocation to, and care, at an approved animal sanctuary in Namibia.

Our members have in the past participated in similar operations, with massive success!
http://www.savetheelephants.org/news-reader/items/conservation-co-operation-spares-ugab-elephants-life-40namibia41.html

We are eagerly awaiting your willing response to engage in a discussion.
Kind regards
Anton Louw
Live Trophy
www.facebook.com/livetrophy

jess lucas
jess lucas

I loved the attack against those that disagreed with his "right" to kill a black rhino  as being emotional, but receiving threats against his life he calls, not the police, but the FBI.  Now who is over reacting, and just "who" is making sure the 350,000 he paid to hunt his endanger animal will donate one damn penny, and that is suppose to make all conservationists feel better?   I don't, and neither should anyone else, follow the money folks and you'll learn the truth.

J. Fennell
J. Fennell

If you have 350,000 dollars to buy an opportunity to kill an animal, why not just donate the money to the conservation efforts and let the poor old rhino live out the remainder of his natural life?  I just don't see the logic in going thru with the kill.

Robert F.
Robert F.

Why not just sell 10,000 $500 licenses to hunt the poachers? Seems like a Win/Win

Walt Clayton
Walt Clayton

All this rationalization about saving  the species is just smoke to hide Knowlton's sick obsession with getting as many trophies as he can to fill his walls and ego. Shooting this hapless grass-nibbling rhino will be pathetic. What would be really cool is to see Knowlton stuffed in a macho hunting pose. But I fantasize... 

Hamm Neggs
Hamm Neggs

$350,000 would probably be enough to ship the rhino to any zoo in the world, where people could see and enjoy it as it moves and breathes. I saw live rhinos in Florida (north of Ft Lauderdale) and they were amazing!

Nathan Vergin
Nathan Vergin

So why exactly is this being called a hunt?  Let me get this straight...  They have identified the animals to be targeted and individuals are paying for the right to shoot one of those specific animals.  It's essentially a guaranteed kill?  What skill is involved in that?  What personal risk is involved?  None.  Is he planning to shoot this to provide food needed for his family?  Certainly not.  This is not hunting, it's shooting.  Supposed "hunters" like this and their "trophy hunts" are one of the reasons I have no desire to hunt anymore.  I was raised hunting, trapping and fishing...  But what I was taught was real hunting where I had to work for it, often had to suffer for it, develop instincts and skills and nothing was ever guaranteed.  It was not shooting something just for the sake of doing so.

In the right context, when done properly with respect for the animals and for the right reasons...  I don't have a fundamental problem with real hunting...  and if I needed to do so in order to survive, I would...  but this is not that.  It's unnecessary.

They can dress it up however they want... trying to put a positive spin on it, justifying it by saying how much good it will do and how much he really cares but this is a rich man's game...  That's what it comes down to.  And anyone who has this kind of money to throw around for such pursuits likely has little grasp on actual reality.  I agree with what others have said... if he honestly cared and wanted to do good, he would simply donate the money and choose not to shoot this animal.

And if they have deemed that this is a problem animal that is endangering or killing others then it should be put down by a local conservation warden who isn't going to glorify the action, not some rich U.S. citizen looking to get their kicks and brag to their other rich friends about "hunting" an endangered species simply because they could.

This makes me sick.

Scott Zeidel
Scott Zeidel

What? If one really, truly cares, why don't they just donate money to help? Why kill the very thing they claim to be saving? What am I missing here? 

MJ C.
MJ C.

He can protect wildlife, by paying for the ticket and not using it.  And in that, one rhino is saved this year.  

Emmett Barcalow
Emmett Barcalow

If the "thrill" comes not from killing but from donating money to save endangered species, why not pay the money for conservation and forego killing the black rhino?   

Andrew Booth
Andrew Booth

@Leah V.As we have seen over the last few years most of the money raised for various projects disappears into the pockets of local politicians, crooks and administrators as well as those very officials supposedly responsible for managing different causes. 

How much of the rhino hunting licence fees will actually go toward conserving the rhinos as claimed? A minor percentage I'll wager! Most will go into pockets along the way.  

Robert McManus
Robert McManus

@Hamm Neggs I think shipping the old guy to a zoo might be a fate he would consider worse than death.  Better that all the concerned citizens who are outraged about this would put together tour packages to see rhinos and other animals in their native habitat, spend money in the country of origin and convince the populace that making money off gullible tourists is better than shooting animals for their potential profitable assets(in this case the rhino's horn).  Then, said tourists could return home with a new point of view on their own country's wildlife and habitats, get up off their hind-ends and DO SOMETHING INSTEAD OF WHINING ONLINE.


Why would Mr. Knowlton, if he is so concerned about conservation, want to shoot and kill the animal? If he were truly a conservationist concerned with all living things on Earth he would put his apparently prodigious financial assets to work in hands-on conservation. And maybe instead of traveling abroad carrying a gun to give a thrill to his blood sport fetish he'd get involved on the ground supporting rhinos and their habitat and protecting them from poachers.

Will Warstler
Will Warstler

@Scott Zeidel The situation, as I understand it, is that the World Wildlife Fund, and a team of scientists that work in the area and are experts on Black Rhinos, and theGov't of Namibia, all agree that 5(specific) Black Rhinos of the hundreds that are in the area have been killing other Rhinos, and have been tagged for termination,... Given the fact that these Rhinos are going to be killed,  I guess in an effort to raise money for their conservation cause, they held an auction for the hunt to kill 1 of the 5 rhinos,... And This guy won,... To me personally, it isn't a "killing an extinct black rhino issue" as much as it is a trophy hunting issue. I have no horse in the race, but once I did my research I personally have no problem with the guy killing the animal, however as I don't hunt I am unable to grasp the need to kill an animal, that has no gun(obviously), with a gun and then pose with it's dead body for trophy pics,.. I don't want to kill him for it, but no I don't get it. 

Will Warstler
Will Warstler

@MJ Caruso The rhino would not be saved, it is 1 of 5 specific, tagged animals, that will be destroyed because they have been deemed a threat for killing other Black Rhinos. Not trying to argue, just kinda fyi. from what I have learned about the situation so far..

Coleen Galvin
Coleen Galvin

@Will Warstler @MJ C. read the thread... see above "The Rhino's  fate could be different , African sanctuaries are offering to take the animal away from the herd instead of Corey Knowlton killing it , he has been given a chance to choose an alternative  , Clearly, he will have to change his ways , and give up the only chance for him to add  a Black Rhino , and yet another photo and trophy to his morbid collection. "

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