Texan Corey Knowlton, who paid $350,000 for the chance to hunt an endangered African black rhinoceros, has hired around-the-clock private security after receiving death threats from animal lovers.
Knowlton has lived in fear for himself and his family after his name was leaked on social media websites that he had won last weekend's Dallas Safari Club auction for a black rhino hunting permit from the Namibian government, according to reports.
"If I sound emotional, it's because I have people threatening my kids," Knowlton told CNN
. "It's because I have people threatening to kill me right now [that] I'm having to talk to the FBI and have private security to keep my children from being skinned alive and shot at."
During an interview on CNN's "Piers Morgan Live" on Thursday, Knowlton said, "I want to experience a black rhino. I want to be there and be a part of it. I believe in the cycle of life. I don't believe that meat comes from the grocery store."
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Knowlton, 35, the co-host of a hunting show on The Outdoor Channel called "Jim Shockey's The Professionals," told Dallas TV station WFAA
, "I'm a hunter. I want to experience a black rhino. I want to be intimately involved with a black rhino. If I go over there and shoot it or not shoot it, it's beyond the point."
Knowlton, who lives in Royse City, about 30 miles outside Dallas, has been hiding out in a Las Vegas hotel room until the outrage from animal rights and wildlife groups calms down.
"They're wanting to kill me," he told another Dallas TV station, KTVT. "They're wanting to kill my children. They're wanting to skin us alive."
But he's receiving little sympathy from animal lovers who have taken aim at his deadly hunting plan.
"You are a barbarian. People like you need to be the innocent that are hunted," posted one woman on Knowlton's Facebook page.
Another critic wrote, "I have friends who live in the area and will have you in [their] sights also." And another posting warned, "I find you and I will kill you."
One woman mentioned the irony of Knowlton's fears. "A hunter afraid of being hunted? How do you think the rhino feels idiot?" she wrote.
The Dallas Safari Club has pointed out that the black rhino Knowlton plans to shoot is an older male and is no longer able to breed. The club says the animal was likely to be targeted by the Namibian government anyway because it had become too aggressive.
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."
According to CNN, Knowlton is a Dallas-based hunting consultant for The Hunting Consortium, an international guide service, and his online biography says he's hunted more than 120 species on most continents.
Knowlton says the $350,000 auction money would be used to help save the endangered species and raise awareness about wildlife conservation.
"I respect the black rhino," Knowlton said. "A lot of people say, 'Do you feel like a bigger man?' or 'Is this a thrill for you?' The thrill is knowing that we are preserving wildlife resources, not for the next generation, but for eons."
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