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Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation in the strongest terms condemns the recent killing of a critically endangered Black Rhino in Namibia, by Mr. Corey Knowlton, for a hunting trophy.

 

The word ‘Conservation’ means the following:

1. The act or process of conserving.

2. Preservation or restoration from loss, damage, or neglect.

3. The protection, preservation, management, or restoration of
wildlife and of natural resources such as forests, soil, and water.

Conservation most certainly does not mean the exploitation and sensationalizing of the trophy hunting of a Black Rhino which people all over the world are desperately trying to protect and save from extinction.

Let’s look at some of the issues surrounding this controversy:

The rhino poaching in Namibia is completely out of control. With around 65 Rhino Carcasses of a limited population found in just the last few months, every rhino life is precious and should be treated as such. Most of the animals being poached here are Black Rhino. Namibia desperately needs an anti-poaching plan that can work. The exorbitant sum of money paid by Mr. Knowlton and the Dallas Safari Club could have been used to set up a decent anti-poaching program. Despite what we are being told, there is no guarantee that this will happen now.

 

Corey Knowlton pictured above on his way to kill the endangered Black Rhino.

It could also have been donated outright to for instance Black Rhino breeding programs or projects such as @Rhino Rescue Project (for horn infusion), but then Mr. Knowlton would not have the head on his wall in a few weeks.

Another option was that Mr. Knowlton could have done a ‘green hunt’, a process whereby by the animal is darted with sedatives in order to facilitate relocation. He could still have filmed it, taken his pictures to tell the tale, with the exception that one of these precious beings would still have been alive. These options had been presented to Mr. Knowlton and the DSC during the time of the auction by an organization called Live Trophy, who offered to refund Mr. Knowlton his money, and carry all costs of relocation. A suitable, safe site to move the Rhino to had been identified and secured. These talks had been shut down by Mr. Knowlton, because in actual fact, he just wanted the trophy, or in his own words “I want to intimately experience a Black Rhino”.

The Government of Botswana has joined the ranks of thousands of organizations outraged at the fact that no other options were entertained. Botswana indicated in an official statement that they would have been honoured to take the (live) rhino into their safekeeping.
In response to statements made that the rhino was a problem animal – these PAC (Problem Animal Control) permits need to be executed within two weeks of the verified complaint. Not fifteen months later.

As per the CNN televised footage, this area was frequented by only three rhino, of which two had been identified by the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism as possible targets to be shot. It now has two, and it is just not possible to be certain that this population will survive or expand. Often, the older, more dominant bulls carry the strongest genes, the same ones that nature selects to be carried over to their offspring. Now we will never know, and this specific population of black rhino might as well be officially declared extinct. It is very clear from the articles and footage of journalists attending the hunt, that this bull was still healthy and fit. After all, it took him more than 30 minutes to collapse and die after being shot.

 

 

Knowlton having shot and killed this precious endangered Black Rhino.

Mr. Knowlton had the gall to say that the hunting conditions were brutal. Actually, brutal is working for years, sleeping in tents, exposed to the elements, in constant danger of being killed by poachers, in constant hardship, under-equipped and under-valued, just to protect our remaining rhinos from being poached. Watching your fellow rangers being murdered, and the precious beings entrusted to your care being slaughtered mercilessly. Because this is the reality of what a ranger faces, every day. In fact, to earn the equivalent of what Corey Knowlton spent to kill the rhino, a ranger would have to work for more than fifty years. To put it bluntly, with this blood money, Corey Knowlton could have paid the salaries of around one hundred (100) rangers for a full year. Is it becoming more obvious where priorities should have been?

As it stands now, the USD350k has been swallowed up into the coffers of a notorious ‘Conservation’ fund which has not been forensically audited in years, and it is highly unlikely that transparency will be at the order of the day.

As for the meat being supplied to the villagers, suffice to say that it is probably the most expensive meat they will ever eat. Together with the live relocation and reimbursement option, offers were made to Mr. Knowlton to set up self-sustaining small farming practices for the villagers (including complete training and education), supplied with goats that could reproduce and crops that if correctly managed would have been able to feed them for the rest of their lives, not just for the fifteen minutes of that much-prostituted picture.

There were other options which would have made Corey Knowlton a hero in the eyes of every person on this planet who loves animals, and he was aware of those options.

The professional hunter, Mr. Hentie van Heerden, who accompanied Mr. Knowlton on this hunt, is no stranger to controversy. In 2008 it was Mr. Van Heerden who held the hunting permit for Voortrekker , iconic Desert Elephant and ‘founding father’ of all the present few individuals in small herds living in the Kunene and Damaraland regions of the Namib. This permit was bought out from him (saving Voortrekker’s life as a living trophy), and Van Heerden killed another elephant instead. It would be interesting to know how much Mr. Van Heerden has been paid for his services, as his public profile now implies ‘retirement’.

Fewer people are aware that a second permit has been issued by the Namibian MET, for the Hunting of another Black Rhino.
Michael Luzich paid USD200k for his permit. He also received permit approval for the importation of the trophy from USFWS. 'Luzich has close ties to the person who 'accidentally' shot a Pregnant Black Rhino cow in Mangetti, in a highly controversial blunder of epic proportions. Is he going to follow through, or dare we hope that he may have learnt something from the Knowlton fiasco?

The fact that the US Fish & Wildlife Services approved the trophy import permits despite having been flooded with thousands upon thousands of comments opposing, is quite puzzling. The public comment period was a pacifier, as no heed was paid to any comment opposing the permit. The involvement of the Save the Rhino Trust and the WWF in this controversy is quite alarming to say the least, as is the recent admission of the Dallas Safari Club into the IUCN. It certainly seems like every animal on this planet has its price, no matter how critically endangered. Everything can be bought with enough money and political clout.

Even the life of one of only a few thousand critically endangered Black Rhino left in the world!.

©WHWF
Photograph by Wild Heart