Black rhino hunting permit auctioned for $350,000

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A permit to hunt an endangered African black rhino sold for $350,000 at a Dallas auction held to raise money for conservation efforts but criticized by wildlife advocates. Steve Wagner, a spokesman for the , which sponsored the closed-door event Saturday night, confirmed the sale of the permit for a hunt in the African nation of . He declined to name the buyer.

The Safari Club’s executive director, Ben Carter, has defended the auction, saying all money raised will go toward protecting the species. He also said the rhino that the winner will be allowed to hunt is old, male and nonbreeding — and that the animal was likely to be targeted for removal anyway because it was becoming aggressive and threatening other wildlife.

Western (Diceros bicornis longipes)

But the auction drew howls from critics, including wildlife and animal rights groups, and the FBI said it was investigating death threats against members of the club.

Officials from the Humane Society and the International Fund for Animal Welfare have said that while culling can be appropriate in abundant animal populations, all black rhinos should be protected, given their endangered status.

An estimated 4,000 black rhinos remain in the wild, down from 70,000 in the 1960s. Nearly 1,800 are in Namibia, according to the Safari Club.

Critics have also said any hunting of a rhino sends a bad message to the public.

“This auction is telling the world that an American will pay anything to kill their species,” Jeffrey Flocken, North American regional director of the Massachusetts-based IFAW, said this past week. “This is, in fact, making a spectacle of killing an endangered species.”

The auction took place in downtown Dallas under tight security. Organizers hoped to at least break the previous high bid for one of the permits in Namibia, which was $223,000, and had said the amount could be as high as $1 million. The nation offers five permits each year, and the one auctioned Saturday was the first to be made available for purchase outside of Namibia.

The winning bidder could have come from anywhere in the world, and at least some bidders were expected to enter by phone.

About 40 protesters gathered early Saturday evening outside the convention center where the auction and a pre-auction dinner were to take place. They held signs and chanted. Most dispersed by just after 6 p.m. CST.

Jim and Lauren Ries traveled with their children from Atlanta to protest the auction of the rare black rhino hunting permit in Dallas. Jim Ries said it was his son Carter, 12, and daughter Olivia, 11, who pushed for them to go and participate.

“We heard what the Dallas Safari Club was doing and we thought it was just wrong that they were auctioning off to kill a black rhino and we really got upset that they were thinking this,” Carter Ries said.

Jim Ries said his children are passionate about animal conservation and were working to help adopt cheetahs in Africa. The family started a nonprofit called One More Generation, dedicated to saving endangered species.

“There’s less than 5,000 black rhinos left on the planet,” the father said, “and if our kids ever want to see a rhino left in the wild, we can’t be pulling the trigger on every one we say is too old to breed.”

Poachers long have targeted all species of rhino, primarily for its horn, which is valuable on the international black market. Made of the protein keratin, the chief component in fingernails and hooves, the horn has been used in carvings and for medicinal purposes, mostly in Asia. The near-extinction of the species also has been attributed to habitat loss.

This article was written by Nomaan Merchant and Michael Graczyk for Associated Press.


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Matt Price
Matt Price

I don't like some of the random care people here either. Did the WBR not go extinct in 2011….why all of a sudden does the internet make a big deal of it over 2 years later? This article is in reference to the main species, the western was a sub-species of it. While the regular black rhino is still critically endangered, it's numbers are better than the western subspecies was for a long period of time. In fact said creature's last publicly noted occurrence was even further back in 2006, for those really rallying against this, shouldn't you have known… Read more »

Adam Malonjao

Welp, Western Black Rhino declared extinct. Nice one preserving the rhino's by killing them.

Timothy Barksdale
Timothy Barksdale

I have very mixed feelings about this. On one hand the 5,000 remaining Black Rhinos have a "value" of nearly 2 Billion Dollars at this figure. Poachers pay nothing and kill anyway. To protect the species people are Poisoning the "horn" or cutting it off and that is horrible and humiliating. If this older male REALLY is past the breeding age, then I think putting $350,000 into conservation of Rhinos is not a bad thing. I'd suggest the price should be even higher, but it is a start. The Old Chinese men are the problem . In this country we… Read more »