I was unable to personally attend the Dallas Safari Club’s annual convention in January, but I have it on good authority the event was a huge success. Besides the usual festivities, a special auction was held to help bring the black rhino back from the brink of extinction. You would think an animal as big as a rhinoceros would know better than to go around teetering on brinks, but there you go. One of the most endangered species on the planet, the black rhino has dwindled from a population of around 70,000 during the 1960s to about 4,000 at present, worldwide.
The auction was expected to bring up to a million simoleons, but the winning bid topped out at $350,000. Not peanuts, but not the really big bucks, either. But then, there was a lot of negative publicity brought to bear on the DSC because of the item being auctioned – a Namibian black rhino hunt.
The animal rights crowd began making loud, whiny, protestor type noises as soon as they learned of the auction. The anti-hunters were incensed that DSC would propose killing a black rhino to save black rhinos. It makes perfect sense to me, but then, I’m a hunter.
Hunters, quite simply, pay the bill to care for wildlife. Animal rights organizations claim to care about animals, but spend next to nothing to actually help any of them. Without the revenue hunting provides for wildlife resource services, habitat management, and game law enforcement, far more animals would be on the verge of joining the Dodo. Altruism is fine and good in theory, but in practice people don’t actually turn loose of large sectors of money to save a species they will never see in the wild. It just doesn’t happen.
So, from that standpoint, auctioning off one black rhino to save the rest seems a little more acceptable to the reasonable non-hunter. Unfortunately we aren’t dealing with reasonable non-hunters. Fortunately, there’s yet more to the story.
About 1,800 of the world’s approximately 4,000 black rhinos live in Namibia, the African country where the hunt is to take place. There are so few of them that wildlife managers keep tabs on them, and sometimes actually name individual rhinos. The hunt auctioned off by DSC was not a pass to shoot just any black rhino that happened along. It was a permit to kill a particular older bull, named Ronnie. Ronnie is past breeding age, and has become aggressive toward the other animals.
Dan Solomon never mentioned any of that in the October 30 column he wrote for ‘Texas Monthly’ about the auction. Solomon blasted DSC, titling his piece ‘The Dallas Safari Club Is Trying To Preserve The Black Rhino By Killing A Black Rhino.’ That happens to be true, but of course it sounds bad when you say it like that. Which is what Solomon intended.
Of course, Solomon probably speaks for many who don’t know the whole story. On the surface it sounds, at best, counterproductive to kill an animal to help save the species. Sometimes, however, that’s what is necessary. Any biologist will tell you that individual animals often must be weeded out for the benefit of the rest. That seems to be the case with Ronnie the Rhino.
Ronnie has become a problem. According to DSC spokesman and former president Steve Wagner, if the hunt had not been donated to DSC by the Namibian government, and auctioned off for the good of the group, wildlife managers would likely have had to kill the rhino, anyway. The Convention on International Trade gives Namibia five black rhino permits a year, for the purpose of culling those that contribute the least, and pose the greatest threat, to the others.
No meat is wasted when any African big game animal is killed. It goes to feed the starving villagers in the area, and every part of the creature is used for whatever purposes apply. That will be the case with the black rhino, with the added benefit of $350,000 to help the rest of the species. The auction is a win-win.
Still, Hanns-Louis Lamprecht, a safari operator in Namibia, was disappointed in the amount of money raised. “It annoys me to tears,” Lamprecht told ‘Dallas Morning News.’ “A million dollars would have lasted years, years in the conservation efforts. The fact is it could have been more.” Lamprecht referred to the anti-hunters who picketed the event, and were thought responsible for affecting the bidding.
If the antis had not gotten involved, Namibia might be taking a million bucks home to help the black rhinos, instead of only $350,000. Most of the animal rights activists probably mean well, but they generally end up doing more harm than good.
The fellow who bought the rhino hunt, whose name I will not mention here, has reportedly received death threats from some anti-hunter types. You know, the folks who hold life in such high regard they don’t want any animals killed. Yeah, them. They’re threatening to kill a man.
If I were the winning bidder I wouldn’t be all that worried about that, since people opposed to hunting probably pose a minimal threat to life and limb.
Unless, of course, you happen to be a species of wildlife facing extinction. Nothing is more detrimental to wildlife than anti-hunters . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who likes to be referred to as ‘Bwana.’ Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org