The decision of a Dallas conservation group to auction off a rare license, giving the holder the legal right to hunt an endangered black rhinoceros, has caused no small controversy among conservationists. It has also led to death threats being leveled at the organizer of the auction.
The Dallas Safari Club had hoped to raise as much as $1 million to aid future efforts in the conservation of wildlife in their charity auction expected to be held Saturday night. It was planned to auction off the license at that time.
Much criticism has been hurled at the club from groups including, but not limited to, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). PETA said the idea of auctioning off the item is another example of allowing rich hunters to purchase thrills, even at the cost of the life of a rhinoceros. It is estimated that there are approximately 4,800 of the species alive around the world. This is according to the World Wildlife Federation. The tourism ministry of Namibia says there are over 1,700 black rhinos living in their country.
Jeffrey Flocken, a spokesman for the International Animal Welfare told reporters that the species needs to be protected instead of auctioned off to the highest bidder. Flocken further said that auction sends a very dangerous message. It relays a dead black rhinoceros stuffed, mounted and hung as a trophy on a living room in a mansion in Texas, is more valuable than a living one in the African wilds.
The government of Namibia is responsible for managing the black rhino population. The government allows approximately three hunting licenses on a yearly basis in order to aid in the culling of less healthy, older animals, according to a spokesman for the Dallas Safari Club.
Club Executive Director Ben Carter said in an interview, that in all honesty he felt the recent controversy over the launch of a hunting license for a black rhino was due to most people just being uninformed. In an interview with Dallas public radio station KERA, Carter said that most people in the United States do not understand how things work in the African wild.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service had publicly issued an endorsement of the auction with the statement that a limited weed-out of the overall rhino population of the male species that are too old to breed, helps reduce violence among other males. The selected license also lowers the death rate among juvenile age black rhinos. The Namibian government uses money from such auctions to help fund the black rhinoceros black accounts, make improvement on the investigation of criminal activity related to black rhinos and even trace stolen rhinoceros horns.
This argument was made fun of by 90-year old animal rights activist and former game show host, Bob Barker. Barker said that this seemed to be a rather harsh method of any species to deal with their senior citizen population. Barker made these remarks in a letter released to the public by PETA.
Carter said that after the sale was publicized, death threats were hurled at his family and himself. The FBI confirmed that there was an investigation into multiple alleged death threats against different club members.
The website, Moveon, has posted a petition to stop the auction of the black rhino hunting license. As of Saturday afternoon, the petition had drawn close to 1,900 signatures. The controversy continues.
By Rick Hope