Texas Club Auctions Right to Hunt Endangered Rhino

Texas Club Auctions Right to Hunt Endangered Rhino

(AP) Texas club auctions right to hunt endangered rhino
By MICHAEL GRACZYK
Associated Press
HOUSTON
Plans to auction a rare permit that will allow a hunter to take down an endangered black rhino are drawing criticism from some conservationists, but the organizer says the fundraiser could bring in more than $1 million that would go toward protecting the species.

John J. Jackson III belongs to the Dallas Safari Club, which earlier this month announced it would auction the permit _ one of only five offered annually by Namibia in southwestern Africa. The permit is also the first to be made available for purchase outside of that country.

Some animal preservation groups are bashing the idea.

An estimated 4,000 black rhinos remain in the wild, down from 70,000 in the 1960s. Nearly 1,800 are in Namibia, according to the safari club.

Poachers long have targeted all species of rhino, primarily for its horn, which is valuable on the international black market. Made of the protein keratin, the chief component in fingernails and hooves, the horn has been used in carvings and for medicinal purposes, mostly in Asia. The near extinction of the species also has been attributed to habitat loss.

The auction is scheduled for the Dallas Safari Club’s annual convention in January.

According to Jackson, who said he’s been working on the auction project with federal wildlife officials, the hunt will involve one of five black rhinos selected by a committee and approved by the Namibian government. The five are to be older males, incapable of reproducing and likely “troublemakers … bad guys that are killing other rhinos,” he said.

Jackson said 100 percent of the auction proceeds would go to a trust fund, be held there until the permit is approved and then forwarded to the government of Namibia for the limited purpose of rhino conservation.

Jeffrey Flocken, North American regional director of the Massachusetts-based International Fund for Animal Welfare, disagreed, describing the club’s argument as “perverse, to say the least.”

Rick Barongi, director of the Houston Zoo and vice president of the International Rhino Foundation, said the hunt was not illegal but remained a complex idea that “sends a mixed message.”

On Tuesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it was providing “guidance” to the safari club on whether it would agree to a permit, required under federal law, to allow the winning bidder to bring the trophy rhino to the United States.

Earlier this year, the service granted such a permit for a sport-hunted black rhino taken in Namibia in 2009.

Pacelle said the Humane Society would work to oppose the permit.

An administrator at the Namibian Embassy in Washington referred questions about the hunt and auction to the government’s tourism office in Windhoek, the nation’s capital. There was no response Wednesday to an email from The Associated Press.

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