What's the best way to save the endangered black rhino? Shoot one.
At least that's the thinking of the Dallas Safari Club, which announced this week that it will auction off a permit to kill one black rhino in Namibia.
Expected to fetch somewhere up to $1 million, the permit will go up for auction at the club's annual convention this January. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the permit will go to The Conservation Trust Fund for Namibia's Black Rhino.
Ben Carter, the club's executive director, told the AFP, "First and foremost, this about saving the black rhino." Unsurprisingly, not everybody buys that argument.
Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States told Al Jazeera, "Shooting a black rhino in the wild is about as difficult as shooting a parked car," he said. "If these are multimillionaires and they want to help rhinos, they can give their money to help rhinos. They don't need to accompany their cash transfer with a high caliber bullet."
The Namibian government allows the killing of up to five of the endangered beasts annually and wildlife officials will have to approve the rhino chosen for the hunt, deciding which animal's death would most likely be beneficial for the rest of the herd. That generally means an older male who's beyond his reproductive years, but whose territorial instincts keep younger males from reproducing.
Pacelle, however, remains unconvinced. "The world is seeing a concerted effort to preserve the very few black rhinos and other rhinos who are dodging poachers' bullets and habitat destruction. The last thing [rhinos] need are wealthy elites from foreign lands coming in to kill them for their heads."
The Word Wildlife Fund estimates that there are just under 5,000 black rhinos left worldwide, down from about 70,000 in the 1970s when the poaching epidemic began.
By 1993, the rhino's numbers had dipped below 2,500. Ongoing conservation efforts have stabilized the population somewhat, though the animals remain critically endangered.
But Carter is steadfast in his belief that shooting a rhino would have no affect on the population as a whole. He told the Dallas Observer, "Black rhinos tend to have a fairly high mortality rate. Generally speaking, out of a population of 2,000, harvesting three rhinos over a couple or three years has no impact on the health of the rhino herd at all."
But in his most telling statement, Carter added, "People are talking about 'Why don't you do a photo safari?' or whatever," he said. "Well, that's great, but people don't pay for that."