How Do You Save Endangered Rhinos? Kill Them and Display Their Horns

For the first time in 33 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has granted a permit to an American hunter to import a black rhino trophy from Africa.

The move certainly set a precedent for importing endangered species trophies – it’s the first time any endangered species trophy has been allowed into the states – and has stirred up controversy about whether or not killing an endangered species can help save them.

Black rhinos are protected under the Endangered Species Act and listed as critically endangered under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which governs their hunting and bans trade unless there are “exceptional circumstances.”

Since 1970, the population has declined more than 90 percent while the demand for rhino horns has led to skyrocketing black market prices and a recent surge in poaching. The number of rhinos killed jumped from 13 in 2007 to 668 in 2012 alone. As of this month, 203 rhinos have already been killed in South Africa this year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

With fewer than 5,000 black rhinos in the wild and the resurgence in poaching it seems obvious to some that no one should be killing them at all, but trophy hunters will clearly not be deterred. Namibia 
and South Africa were each granted trophy hunting quotas for five black rhinos per year under CITES this year.

When Namibia reopened hunting for the black rhino in 2009, David K. Reinke, CEO of Liberty Parts Team, went there and dropped $215,000 to kill a rhino bull and then applied to the USFWS for a permit to bring home a trophy that stated the import was for the “for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species” with the help of the non-profit organization Conservation Force.

“The Service is to be commended for showing good judgment on this issue,” said John J. Jackson, III, of Conservation Force. “This is an important juncture in rhino conservation, when the continued increase of rhino poaching makes it all the more important to raise the funds necessary and incentivize the local people to conserve these animals. Namibia’s black rhino hunting program is a force for conservation, and US Fish and Wildlife has recognized that.”

Critics on the other side of the argument disagree and raised concerns about how this will affect rhinos and other species and whether anyone with enough cash to blow on a trophy hunt will be allowed to kill an endangered species. When the quota was issued, Animal Defenders International also raised the question of how many people will continue to support conservation efforts with donations if animals will just be killed for fun in the end anyway.

When people paid to help save the rhino, did they really imagine it was so that the rhino’s head
could one day hang on someone’s wall?

Teresa Telecky, Director of the Wildlife Department at Humane Society International, told TakePart that the argument that hunters contribute financially to conservation is both ridiculous and unverifiable and that in this instance, the money will be going into a general fund which can be used for all sorts of purposes, including development which would obviously be detrimental to the species.

TakePart also points out the irony of the USFWS granting the permit on the same day that its director Dan Ashe, went on Antiques Roadshow to tell people about the history of the rhino crisis and how it relates to the antiques trade (watch the video below).

Yet, the service is standing by its decision to allow a hunter to import his trophy and believes that the legal quota will help deal with the issue of “surplus males,” while others continue to argue that moving them to help repopulate former range states would be more beneficial to their survival than killing them.


Watch Bonus Interview: Dan M. Ashe, Director, U.S. Fish & Wildlife on PBS. See more from Antiques Roadshow.


Related Stories:

Poachers Have Already Killed Eleven African Rhinos in 2012

CITES Fails Polar Bears, Rejects Commercial Trade Ban

28 Elephants Killed by Poachers


Photo credit: filmingilman/flickr


Katherine Wright
Katherine Wright4 years ago

WTF is wrong with this article and way of thinking???? Absolutely everything. This makes ZERO sense to me, zero.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

mari s.
Mari S4 years ago

We humans must protect the Rhino and be relentless about it -- the Rhino has the right to his and/or her life -- we must stop those who are detrimental to and do damage to the Rhino including his and/or her existence -- we must stop, at every turn, those who slaughter and murder the Rhino no matter what their reasoning. Don't allow these murderer-criminals to commit their horrific activities -- we must stop them and be relentless about it.

Sue B.
Sue B4 years ago

If these "hunters" were true conservationists, they would just be donating their money to help save these endangered species, instead of wanting a trophy to hang on their wall! Trophy hunting is sickening, and can't even be thought of as "hunting" - I call it murder.

Susan Hoskam
Susan Hoskam4 years ago

Please, can anyone put in a few (simple) words what the article is about. I don't understand it. :-( I'm not native English, so I don't get the point of the article I think.

Mark Jones
Mark Jones4 years ago

Another silly and open-ended poll.
So, Black Rhinos are territorial and solitary. The only time they are with others is a mother and calf or male and female for mating. If you own a property, regardless of how big, and breed your rhinos well, you eventually have too many for your property. They will fight and kill each other, undergoing a lot of stress in the process. Do we all think that this is okay?
You can't just sell him on to any other property. Is it big enough? Do they have enough money to buy it? And most importantly; does that rhino sub-species belong to that area?
These are problems that farmers in Namibia are facing. They have rhinos that can't go anywhere else due to the type of sub-species that lives there. If they have too many, what do they do with them? Hunting is never a nice subject to talk about, unless you are one yourself.
People that sit in their homes halfway around the world and comment about stories they know nothing about barring the snippet above should possibly rather stick to things they know.
That farmer made enough money from this deal to buy another two rhinos. Now he can get in new blood; females; and breeding will continue to help protect the species for the future.
Remember that saving a species is a little bit more than just trying to save every animal that is alive.

Elizabeth O.
Elizabeth O4 years ago

Voted: 'no!'

Alison A.
Alison A4 years ago

I really can't see what people think they have achieved by shooting an animal which is so big in stature, that a three year old could probably do it.

I also don't see how killing an endangered species helps preserve the species(!) Sounds like a feeble excuse to kill and animal to me, irrelevant as to whether he hangs the head in his home or a gives it to the Conservation Force.

With that said, Namibia should never have allowed open fire on an endangered species, it just goes to show what sort of idiots they are and how they do not care for nature.

Well I hope they are happy now, if it is the same Black Rhino which was declared EXTINCT on Thursday, they all did such a marvellous job of keeping the species safe.... well done(!).... idiots!


Syd H.
Syd H4 years ago

Sure, let them kill Rhinos... if they can do it with nothing else but their bare hands.

Personally, I would pay to see that which would raise more money.

Karrie Hough
Karrie Hough4 years ago

Keeping the remaining rhinos safe and healthy and most of all away from poachers and those that are assisting the poachers must be a world wide priority, if we don't work together to save these magestic animals we will loose them forever. It is very sad to me that anyone could kill these incredible animals not for food not for necessity but for a little bit of money, I do not nor will I ever understand why this is done, to me it is simply never worth it!