Sport and Trophy Hunting Is Not ConservationPosted by Alexis Braun, ALDF Litigation Clerk on January 29, 2014
On January 11, the Dallas Safari Club auctioned off a permit to hunt a black rhino in Namibia. The Club wants us to believe that the killing of a critically endangered black rhino for sport is really an act of conservation. However, the individual who won the auction will soon travel to Namibia and shoot and watch die a member of an endangered species. After a taxidermist has stuffed the rhino, this individual will attempt to import the rhino—now called a trophy—back into the United States to serve as an ego booster, conversation starter, and furniture piece. If this doesn’t feel like conservation to you, it’s because it’s not.
There are an estimated 5,055 black rhinos worldwide, 1,800 of which live in Namibia. This represents a decline of about 96 percent over the last century. A related subspecies, the western black rhino, was declared extinct in 2011. In 2004, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) gave Namibia permission to hunt up to five male black rhinos a year, but the permit auctioned in Dallas was the first such permit to be sold outside of Namibia.
The Club justified the auction of the permit of this critically endangered species by promising that the money raised would go towards supporting black rhino conservation efforts in Namibia. The government of Namibia guaranteed that only a senior male rhino that was post-reproductive age would be hunted. The Club’s Executive Director Ben Carter publicly stated: “First and foremost, this is about saving the black rhino.”
The Club had publicly predicted that the auction could raise as much as one million dollars for rhino conservation in Namibia, but the winning bid totaled only $350,000.
Some have publicly supported the Club’s actions, including Dr. Rosie Cooney of the IUCN, who wrote: “Capitalizing on the humane demise of a post reproductive animal in order to produce tangible benefits for the conservation of its species is a sound strategy of strong support.”
Thankfully, others have come forward to condemn the actions of the Club. After the Club announced its plans to auction off the permit in late 2012, over 25,000 people signed a Change.org petition asking the Club to cancel the auction. Bob Barker, Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the United States, Jeff Flocken of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and ALDF’s own executive director Stephen Wells all criticized the auction as contrary to conservation efforts.
The Dallas Safari Club would like us to see what they do as conservation. What it comes down to, though, is that trophy hunters kill animals for fun, for sport, for entertainment, for a hobby. That is not conservation.