Trophy Hunting

Ngorongoro_Spitzmaulnashorn_edit1Recently, two endangered black rhinos became fair game for two American big game hunters. 

The two hunters paid $350,000 USD each for a permit issued by the Namibian government to hunt the animals. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) approved their import, as trophies, to the United States.

FWS director Dan Ashe says: “United States citizens make up a disproportionately large share of foreign hunters who book trophy hunts in Africa.That gives us a powerful tool to support countries that are managing wildlife populations in a sustainable manner and incentivize others to strengthen their conservation and management programs.”

Culling has been a practice that many countries around the world use to deal with overpopulation, preventing disease, or protecting other species. In the U.S., culling is used in the beef and poultry industries as well.

According to takepart‘The agency said Namibia’s black rhino management plan—which has grown the population from 2,400 in 1995 to 4,880 by 2010—allows for the killing of five males a year. Big, old bulls like the one that has been selected for Knowlton to hunt keep younger, vibrant male rhinos from mating and growing the population, according to wildlife office.’

On the flip side: “It is the worst sort of mixed message to give a green light to American trophy hunters to kill rhinos for their heads,” Wayne Pacelle, president of The Humane Society, said in a statement. “When the global community is working so hard to stop people from killing rhinos for their horns, we are giving a stamp of approval to a special class of privileged elite to kill these majestic animals as a head-hunting exercise.”

With a population of 4,848 and listed as “critically endangered” according to the World Wildlife Fund, it’s hard to wrap one’s head around why hunting an endangered species is acceptable if you have enough money. Granted, the money is going to conservation efforts for that very species – a notable and necessary thing. However, is this really the way we, as Americans, and as human beings, want to show our interest in conservation? If the hunter is seriously interested in conservation, and has that kind of expendable cash, should he/she not simply donate the money and leave the animal be? Are we not capable of coming up with less violent methods of wildlife management? Or better yet, taking a harder look at how humans, not wildlife, are the ones encroaching on the other’s territory?

It can also be argued trophy hunting, particularly for threatened or endangered wildlife, undermines the efforts of people on the ground, risking their lives to protect these animals – like the International Ranger Federation or any of the anti-poaching units in Africa – along with the efforts of countless people around the world who work in conservation, who donate to conservation efforts, or who use their free time to volunteer or participate in events related to conservation.

What kind of message does it send, both to our own citizens and those around the world, that for the right price, you too can shoot an endangered species?

Thoughts?

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