Why Is Namibia Killing Rhinos?

Black rhino Africa

Last week I was watching the Colbert Report right before falling asleep when a story came on that was so shocking I was sure it wasn’t true, or at least greatly embellished. I was surprised and saddened when I found out that not only was the story true, but it is part of a pattern of behavior that is deeply disturbing.

The Dallas Safari Club, a national hunting organization, received a special permit from the Namibian government to hunt one of the remaining 1,800 black rhinos in that country. According to official accounts, the goal of the hunt is to aid conservation efforts to protect the species.

Wait, what?

That’s right, even though the black rhino is now teetering on the edge of extinction, there are only 5,500 left in the world, there are still people who want to hunt them down. They aren’t just the poachers slaughtering the rhinos to supply the Chinese quack medicine market; they could be people in your own community. That’s because in a misguided notion of protection, the Namibian government is allowing one of them to be hunted for sport. Actually, that’s not quite true, Namibia allows for 5 such permits to be issued every year.

Time to be fair. Both the Namibian government and the Dallas Safari Club say that all of the money from the auction, estimated to be more than $750,000, will go directly to black rhino conservation in Namibia. Furthermore, they say that shooting one of the rhinos ‘won’t matter’ since they are only killing one.


That’s not the issue here, the issue is the concept of supporting conservation by hunting the endangered species one is trying to conserve. We don’t see panda bear hunts going on in China, do we? It is counterintuitive and I think a ruse, a false argument that the Safari Club is using in order to allow one its rich members to travel to the heart of darkness and pretend they’re some great hunter. While the money may support conservation, this is not about conservation. This is about perpetuating barbaric acts by people who I don’t believe really care about preserving the species at all.

Why do I say that? Because when asked a spokesman for the Dallas Safari Club said that ‘people don’t pay for photo safaris,’ meaning that if asked to give the money without including a kill, his members wouldn’t do it. They are, after all, not interested in preserving this beautiful animal, only in killing it. If conservation were the true, altruistic goal the money would just be donated outright and Namibia wouldn’t feel as if it had to allow this permit.

Hunting the rhino is also symbolic to those who wish to eradicate it from the face of the planet. It says that even those charged with protecting the black rhino don’t care enough to really stop the massacre. They’re condoning it through the issuance of this permit.

The arguments made so far are crap, pure rubbish. If an older dominant rhino male is a problem in a herd, he can be moved or studied elsewhere rather than killed and hung on a wall. Because they are so very rare and endangered, the normal arguments one makes with resource and conservation management just don’t apply here, it’s as simple as that.

As someone who has traveled in Africa and whose life has been profoundly affected by the wildlife experiences found there (including being mere feet from Black Rhinos), I am deeply disappointed in Namibia for allowing this. It worries me that many of the world’s governments just aren’t up to the task of protecting one of their most important resources; that money trumps wildlife management. Some day, hopefully not while I’m alive, many of these animals will no longer exist in the wild. That in turn will affect tourism and these countries who today accept a $1 million pay-out for a rhino carcass will lose much more than that in the future; not just in terms of lost tourism revenue, but in the loss of their natural heritage.

What do you think? Is this indeed a horrible decision by the Namibian government or am I missing something?


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By: Mike

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Also follow Matt on , and

10 Responses

  1. [email protected]

    This is a horrible fact. I am not sure i am fond of rhinos but i am definitely fond of cats and I am definitely against animal cruelty 🙁

  2. Passport Dave

    Nice post Matt. I also saw this on Colbert and was completely shocked. It makes absolutely no sense to hunt a black rhino in order to help save them. Now, I am not against hunting, it is necessary for human survival in many situations. However, hunting an endangered species is completely wrong. Doing it in the name of wildlife protection is delusional. Once animals go extinct, they are not exactly easy to bring back. A black rhino hunter is simply contributing to the undiversifying (must be a real word to place here that I can’t think of) of this planet. Namibia is wrong on this one for allowing it. Protection of its species would be much more beneficial to them and everyone else in the long run.

  3. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures

    I was just having this conversation with a South African…it’s BEYOND heartbreaking.

  4. Michael W Trips

    This is absolutely horrible news. We were lucky to see some rhinos in Etosha NP by a watering hole late at night. This makes me think quite differently about the country.

  5. Roxanne

    Good post, Matt. This is paradoxical and off-centre. It reminds me of graffiti on a wall when I was at university. It said: “Fighting for peace is like f—ing for virginity.” Ditto the concept of killing for conservation.

    • Mike

      Ha,I couldn’t have said it better myself

  6. Beth

    This is the first time I’m hearing about this, and it’s terribly heartbreaking. Hunting an endangered animal plays no part in conserving it– it’s just wrong.

  7. Rob Moffett

    At risk of defending the Indefensible … and while recognising this is a highly polarizing issue (for which we conservationists are immensely grateful) please understand this decision is not taken lightly by a nation that has created the extraordinary circumstances for a ~400%+ increase in our national rhino population (and all that sail with them – lions, elephants etc) since Independence (1990) from it’s Colonial masters (who incidentally have a atrocious track record of conservation – no big wildlife left to speak of). Whereas Independent Namibia’s commitment to the national priority of sustainable utilization of natural resources has an exceptional track record I a short period – where land under sustainable – conservation management – has increased from 13% of the nation’s surface area to 44% and growing. This astonishing improvement for life on earth is wholly on account of nature paying its way.

    Namibia and South Africa have had the right (under CITES – the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species) to offer up to five trophy hunts each of black rhinos since 2004, when there were around 3,600 black rhinos (now there are 5,055). So black rhino trophy hunting has been on offer for nine years already.

    Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), which owns all black rhino in Namibia, has decided to auction this particular trophy hunt in a different way. Normally, MET holds auctions in Windhoek, Namibia, which are attended by a mix of individuals and companies. Most of the bidders will be hunting safari operators, who buy permits to shoot particular numbers of specific species, and then offer these to their mailing list of clients, making a nice margin for themselves along the way.

    So MET has looked at where the wealthiest hunters are – and these tend to be American or German – and has focused on getting the best possible price for a black rhino trophy hunt. Rather than hold the auction in Namibia, and hope that there are enough people with serious funds in the room to drive the bid up, they’ve gone straight to the potential customers – in this case, the members of Dallas Safari Club. Funds from the auction will go to the Game Products Trust Fund in Namibia and will be ring-fenced specifically for rhino conservation efforts.

    We’re not just competing for funds against other endangered species – elephants, tigers, polar bears, pandas – but against cancer charities, children’s charities, the most recent natural disaster. In “An inconvenient truth”, Al Gore asserted that 97% of charitable giving goes to people-related causes and 1.5% to pet charities, leaving only 1.5% for the conservation of our entire planet. Are enough new rhino-focused donors really going to come out of the woodwork to make income from trophy hunting unnecessary ??

    The country led the way with community-based natural resource management programmes in the 1990s, an approach that has widely been hailed as keeping communities on the side of wildlife as rhino poaching has stormed through Zimbabwe, South Africa and Kenya. MET has been an early adopter of various types of new technologies for protecting rhino – UAVs, tags, micro chipping rhino, satellite bracelets etc.

    • Tony Blair

      Thank you. No need to get into hysterics. The programme has worked, is working. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    • Mike

      I understand that Namibia has the right to regulate the hunting, I just don’t agree that it should happen at all. I’ve worked in conservation management myself and I hear where you’re coming from, truly. I just don’t think that the normal best practices come into play in this situation. Don’t you think if you ran a campaign that said, unless we receive X amount in donations, then we will offer up these rhinos to hunters? I think the world would absolutely donate more than the hunters would in that situation. I also in no way meant to detract from the good practices that have been done. But sadly a lot of that is lost in the dust-up from this.


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