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.
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?