Don’t forget this World Rhino Day that killing isn’t conservation

A black rhino at night in the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary.

Today we celebrate World Rhino Day, an annual celebration of the five species we know for their distinctive rough skin and horns.

Despite their tough exterior and their formidable size, all five species of rhinos are classified as Endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

We have no one to blame but ourselves: rhinos have no natural predators other than humans. Both the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cite poaching and hunting concerns as the leading threats to rhinos today.

Take the black rhino, which is native to Africa. About 5,000 of them are left in the world today, about 1,800 of which remain in the borders of Namibia. Despite stated acknowledgement that black rhinos are in danger of extinction, Namibia continues to issue sport hunting permits for the species. These permits go to trophy hunters who kill big game for fun.

One trophy hunting advocacy group, the Dallas Safari Club, raised $350,000 this January by auctioning off the opportunity to kill a black rhino in Namibia.

When the permit was on the auction block, the group made the same over-blown conservation claims its ilk often take: The money, they said, would be directed toward conservation practices and helping the Namibian government thwart poaching efforts – in short, let us kill for fun so others can’t for profit.

Not soon after the permit sold, we saw the integrity of these claims exposed for their weakness however. Reports have indicated that the club is threatening to withdraw its donation to the country if the U.S. denies the hunter a permit to import the dead rhino as a trophy. It’s an unsurprising power move from an organization that celebrates the muscle that money and weapons can exercise over the fragile natural world.

Killing an endangered species is an unacceptable act-- period.

An overwhelming majority of Americans polled in a recent survey agree:  Seventy-seven percent were opposed to private organizations raffling off the opportunity for wealthy hunters to kill an endangered species, and 89 percent said they were opposed to any hunting of rhinos for sport.

We at IFAW will continue to work to protect all endangered species, beginning with the individual. The critically endangered black rhino targeted by the Dallas Safari Club hunter is more valuable to the world alive, than as a trophy for some wealthy vainglorious hunter’s mantle. 

Hopefully this year’s World Rhino Day will serve as a reminder that rhinos are worth more in the wild than dead and that killing is not conservation, no matter how much you try to claim that it is for their own good.

--JF

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