A mere 5,000 African black rhinos are now estimated to live in the wild, but that isn't stopping a Texas-based group from killing one of the endangered animals. In a closed auction held this weekend, the Dallas Safari Club auctioned off a permit to hunt a rhino in Namibia for a whopping $350,000.
The winner of the auction, which was first announced late last year, hasn't been identified. But their bid breaks the previous record for a Namibia black rhino hunting permit — five of which are doled out by the country each year — by more than $100,000. Those who purchase the permits are only allowed to hunt from a preselected group of rhinos, largely comprised of older male animals no longer capable of breeding.
Despite that caveat, and assurances from the hunting group that proceeds from the auction will go to conservation efforts, the event hasn't exactly been met with plaudits from animal advocacy groups like the Humane Society and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). "This auction is telling the world that an American will pay anything to kill their species," Jeffrey Flocken of the IFAW told the Associated Press of the event. "This is, in fact, making a spectacle of killing an endangered species."
Members of the Dallas Safari Club have defended the auction, largely on the grounds that significant financial resources are required to help save endangered black rhinos. They've also noted that the older males being hunted under the permits tend to become aggressive and territorial, and are often culled by wildlife officials in an effort to protect younger rhinos. "The removal of limited numbers of males has been shown to stimulate population growth in some areas," reads a statement from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which advised the club on permits required for the auction's winner to import any trophy derived from the hunt. "Removing specific individuals from a population can result in reduced male fighting, shorter calving intervals and reduced juvenile mortality."
This particular hunt might be a tightly controlled one, but poachers remain the primary threat to black rhino populations throughout Africa. Rhino horns, often used in medicine, can sell for $30,000 a pound in some regions, and poaching has slashed black rhino populations from around 70,000 in the 1970's. The US government last year launched a $10 million anti-poaching effort to help address the crisis.