Animal rights and wildlife groups are crying foul over the Dallas Safari Club's decision to auction off a African black rhino hunting permit in Namibia for $350,000 on Saturday.
Ben Carter, executive director of the Safari Club, told the Dallas Morning News that black rhino hunts
in Namibia are supervised and regulated, and the money raised will go to rhino conservation efforts.
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There are less than 5,000 black rhinos alive on the planet, which makes it critically endangered, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Black rhinos are often threatened by poaching because their horns. Between 1970 and 1992, some 96 percent of Africa's black rhinos were killed due to poaching.
Carter told the Dallas Morning News that the rhinos in the hunt are predetermined and the chosen ones are old, male and non-breeding. He said those male rhinos are targeted for removal anyway, because they have become aggressive and threaten other wildlife.
Jeffrey Flocken, of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, charged that the hunting permits are dubious and only encourage the hunting of rhinos, according to CNN.
"It's a farce to say that this is being done for conservation," Flocken said. "It's saying the rarity of this animal is worth more dead than alive.
"(Rhinos) need to be protected, not sold to the highest bidder," Flocken continued. "It also sends a dangerous message that these iconic and disappearing animals are worth more as dead trophies to be mounted and hung on a wall in a Texas mansion than living in the wild in Africa."
The club's spokesman Steve Wagner confirmed to the Dallas Morning News that permit was sold in a closed-door event but declined to name the buyer because of the death threats that were made. The FBI reportedly started investigating the death threats last week.
The Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism issues three rhino hunting permits a year.
"To hunt a black rhino is not taken lightly by Namibia," a letter from the Namibian government to the Dallas Safari Club stated. "Only old geriatric bulls, which are marginalized in the population and do not contribute to reproduction, are trophy hunted."
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