As if the conservation news out of Africa were not bad enough I just recently ran across this bit of insanity.
A Texas hunting club said Friday it aims to raise up to a million dollars for endangered black rhinoceroses by auctioning off a permit to kill one in Namibia. (AFP – Fri, Oct 25, 2013) The Dallas Safari club will sell the permit during its annual convention and expo Jan. 9-12 in Dallas and expects to raise between $250,000 and $1,000,000 with all proceeds donated to the Conservation Trust Fund for Namibia’s Black Rhino.
According to the Dallas Safari Club the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is fully supporting this action and promises to issue a permit to allow the importation of the rhino carcass/trophy. Tim Van Norman, chief of the branch of permits at the FWS said the US government has not yet issued any permit to the Dallas Safari Club to return a rhino’s carcass to the United States.
The individual hunter who is identified as the winner of the auction would first have to pass certain background checks and the animal chosen for the hunt would have to be approved as being beneficial to the conservation of the species for the US government to allow the trophy to come back inside US borders, he said.
According to DSC the Government of Namibia approved the permit in accordance with CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) provisions to generate crucial funding for rhino conservation initiatives including anti-poaching efforts—while at the same time managing the black rhino population within Mangetti National Park, where the hunt will take place.
Black rhinos are internationally considered an endangered species and the World Wildlife Fund says about 4,800 are alive in the African wild. As I reported in a previous blog posting, the sub-species western black rhino is now considered extinct. (By William Holt | Yahoo! News – Thu, Jun 27, 2013) Namibia has an annual quota to kill up to five black rhinos out of its herd of 1,795 animals.
Female black rhino and calf
The theory behind this action is that older male rhinos that have already reproduced interfere with the access of younger males to female rhinos. According to Tim Van Norman of the FWS:
“Namibia has determined that older black rhino males that have already produced offspring and are in reproductive decline are the best targets for hunting.”
“Black rhinos are very territorial so you will have an older male that is keeping younger males from reproducing,” he explained.
“By removing these older males from the population, you get an increase in the production of calves. Younger males are able to impregnate the females that are in that area so you get more offspring than from some of these older males.”
Whatever happened to the good old idea of natural selection and survival of the fittest. Does not the competition of males for females assure that the most fit rhinos will pass on their genes?
So why is this a problem?
First of all, money is extremely seductive. Make no mistake about it. The government of Namibia is taking this action because it needs to money to fight poaching and to help preserve the species. If they had sufficient money they would not be killing off an endangered animal.
This action also perpetuates the concept of the wealthy gaining special access and being able to rise above laws and conventions designed to protect endangered species.
And finally, the concept of taking trophies of endangered species is repugnant.
This is not a screed against hunters. Most hunters have very strong feelings about conservation and strong ethical stands. Today’s hunters work very hard to track their prey and seldom take them just for trophies. They will field dress the carcass and haul it home for food. As long as you are not hunting an endangered species, this is fine.
I also understand that hunting and selective thinning can be an effective wildlife management tool. However, this is always applied to situations were a population has become out of balance (overpopulated). “Thinning of the herd” can prevent mass starvation and over-running of other species in the same area.
That is not the situation in Namibia. The chance of the rhinos over-populating there is zero. Will the removal of one older male rhino result in and increase in the number of calves? That is highly questionable.
My concern is that the government sanctioned killing of endangered species sends the completely wrong message to the world. Just in the past 6 months 100 to 300 elephants were poisoned by natives in Zimbabwe. Why shouldn’t the natives feel cheated. If it’s okay for the government to kill one rhino and collect $1 million why can’t they?
There is also the concept of trophy hunting endangered animals. While I don’t have any interest in mounting animal heads in my home I don’t have a problem with the ethical taking of trophies. A hunter who tracks a huge 12 point buck, kills and dresses it is left with the head and rack. I have no problem with mounting that head. The hunter showed skill and hard work in obtaining it. On the other hand I would be appalled at the concept of a hunter walking up to an animal in an animal park and killing it just for the head.
And that is exactly the situation with the black rhino. Even in a large preserve, it is not hard to find these huge animals. And while rhinos can be a bit aggressive at times, especially if they are with females, they are used to seeing the rangers and others in land rovers. According to Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, “Shooting a black rhino in the wild is about as difficult as shooting a parked car.”
Land Rover closely approaches a white rhino
Finding and killing a black rhino requires almost no skill. How can the dead carcass of an animal killed under such conditions be considered a trophy? I would be morally ashamed to own such a trophy.
On his evening commentary, Stephen Colbert summed it up nicely when he stated,
“If you love something, set it free. Then, when it has a head start – open fire!”
To protest the importation on the black rhino trophy carcass contact:
Mr. Timothy J. Van Norman
Chief, Branch of Permits
Division of Management Authority
Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 North Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22203
Addendum: The US Endangered Species Act
What activities does the ESA prohibit?
Except by regulation or permit issued for specific purposes consistent with the ESA, it is unlawful for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. to:
- Import into and export from the U.S. listed species.
- Take—which includes harassing, harming, pursuing, hunting, shooting, wounding, killing, trapping, capturing, collecting, or to attempting any of these—of listed species within the U.S., its territorial waters, or on the high seas.
- Possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport, or ship listed species taken in violation of the ESA.
- Sell or offer for sale in interstate or foreign commerce; or deliver, receive carry, transport, or ship listed species in interstate or foreign commerce in the course of commercial activity.
Does that mean that a U. S. citizen or resident may hunt an endangered species or a threatened species in another country?
The ESA does not prohibit hunting listed species outside of the U.S. In fact, the ESA does not have the authority to do so. While foreign countries determine whether hunting an endangered or threatened species within their boundaries is lawful, the ESA does regulate the importation of such species.
To import a trophy of a listed species, a person is required to obtain an import permit from the Service’s Division of Management Authority. Since the purpose of importing a sport-hunted trophy is for the hunter’s personal use, an import permit may only be issued if the import is for purposes that enhance the propagation or survival of the species. While the Service does not regulate take (i.e., hunting) in foreign countries, the import of listed trophy species may only be shown to enhance the species if it is taken from a well managed and supported conservation hunting program. It should be noted that the Service has only authorized the importation of endangered trophy species under very limited circumstances. In addition, some threatened species may be imported without an import permit if there is a special rule under the ESA that allows such an activity.
Dallas Safari Club – http://biggame.org/