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October 29, 2013

Sounding the Horn On Despicable Trophy Hunt

At the very time that the world is rallying to save the last rhinos, who are being gunned down by poachers and terror groups taking advantage of the global demand for their horns, the Dallas Safari Club is planning on auctioning an opportunity to shoot a critically endangered black rhino. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seems to be going along with this scheme, prepared to allow an import permit for the trophy.

The entire idea is shameful, and it is a disgrace. Only 5,000 black rhinos survive on the planet, and the last thing rhinos need is more men with guns approaching them and shooting them down for profit or for ego gratification.

Black_rhino
Josef Friedhuber/iStock
There are only 5,000 black rhinos left in the world.

I’ve viewed a lot of investigative footage through the years, but surely one of the images that has stuck in my mind, in the most horrible way, was the shooting of a captive rhino at a canned hunt in South Africa – with the freshly shot animal ungraciously carted off by a front-end loader. In that case, it was a white rhino who was killed, but the only differences between this act and what was proposed by the Dallas Safari Club are the identity of the shooter and some tiny variations in the DNA sequencing of the victim – and that the black rhino is more rare than its white cousin. A magnificent creature, as big as a small school bus and with a prehistoric look and power, shot and killed with glee from a man who took the time and expense to travel half way around the world to demean our species.

The Dallas Safari Club tries to justify its action by saying that money derived from the auction will help rhinos on the ground. True, money can help. But donating to help rhinos need not come with a plan to kill one. It’s very simple to disassociate philanthropy from the killing of one of the rarest large mammals in the world. Rather than paying to kill one of the most endangered creatures on earth, wouldn’t it be philanthropic if Safari Club members invested that money in anti-poaching efforts or in efforts to reduce demand for rhino horns?

I am also amused by the false argument, from the Safari Club types, that they are killing post-reproductive males in the population, or males who are not essential to the functioning of the population. Have any of these old boys at the Safari Club looked in the mirror? My guess is that most of them are post-reproductive themselves, and we don’t much need their genetic contributions any more, either.

Shooting a rhino is not the biggest animal welfare problem in the world, given the vast numbers of animals killed in other sectors. But there’s something about the mania of killing one of the last of one of the world’s most remarkable creatures – and the lengths that individuals go to participate in that act – that is just revolting. I feel sometimes like the people who would do this must come from another strain or breed of our species.

Watch the investigative footage of a white rhino being shot during a captive trophy hunt in South Africa:

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