There’s no disputing that black rhinos are in serious trouble. Despite conservation efforts, sophisticated poaching operations continue to threaten their numbers in Africa, which have dwindled to little more than 5,000.
The Dallas Safari Club (DSC) has come up with what it believes is a solution to help save the species. In the name of conservation, DSC announced that, during its January 2014 convention, it plans to auction off a special permit that will give the winner a chance to kill one of Namibia’s 1,800 black rhinos. The DSC has obtained permission from both the Namibian government and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the permit.
“The whole model of wildlife conservation, of sustainable-use conservation, is that any resource, if it has a value, it will stay there, it will continue to flourish,” DSC Executive Director Ben Carter told the Dallas Observer.
Carter expects the permit will go for $750,000 and that killing one black rhino can be justified by donating the money it raises to the Conservation Trust Fund for Namibia’s Black Rhino.
Unfortunately, giving a species economic value is exactly what got rhinos into the predicament they’re in, in the first place. Rhino horns have a high value on the black market, particularly in Southeast Asia, as ornaments and medicine, even though science has proven they have no actual medicinal benefit. According to Save the Rhino, poaching of black rhinos for their horns has caused a 96 percent decline in their numbers from 65,000 individuals in 1970 to just 2,300 in 1993. Their numbers have risen slightly since then, but they’re still critically endangered.
When asked why the group won’t do a photo safari instead, Carter said it’s because people don’t pay for that.
While trophy hunting brings in one large sum at once, the total is small compared to the revenue ecotourists and wildlife enthusiasts continuously generate. Namibia does promote ecotourism, and tourists who take advantage leave what they find for others to enjoy, instead of permanently removing what would otherwise be an attraction that can be seen over and over again and benefit local communities year-round.
Some areas are taking advantage of the benefits of ecotourism over hunting. Zambia recently announced plans to ban the hunting of big cats because the government concluded that they are worth more alive than dead. Zambia and Botswana will be focusing on ecotourism instead of hunting, which is good news for big cats and bad news for trophy hunters.
The fact that the FWS will allow someone to bring home a trophy also flies in the face of true conservation efforts. The agency already came under fire earlier this year for allowing a hunter to import a trophy from a black rhino for the first time in 33 years, which raised concerns from conservationists about the precedent it would set.
The move also raised concerns that people would stop supporting conservation funds with donations if anyone who shows up with enough money and a gun can kill a species they’ve been fighting to protect.
If you oppose trophy hunting under the guise of conservation, take action by signing the Care2 petition. Tell the FWS that killing rhinos to save rhinos is a ridiculous and unnecessary practice.
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