Last week, someone paid around USD350,000 to the Dallas Safari Club in an auction for the right to hunt a white rhino in Namibia. Animal welfare groups protested outside the auction house and submitted an online petition with 75,000 signatures. Whilst it appears wrong to be shooting endangered species, in this case there is a strong rationale. Paying to hunt rhino rewards the landowners and communities that provide a habitat for the species, provides funds for their protection against poachers and results in better animal welfare. Furthermore, the practice does not seem to be a whole lot different from paying for the right to shoot a deer in Europe or the US. The parallel between the two forms of hunting are well summarized in this blog by Rik Bohning.
The rhino was selected for the cull by Namibian wildlife authorities because he is old and past breeding age. He is also aggressive and dangerous.
Bohning’s main points are:
- A hunter is respecting the law and thus rewarding the landowners that provides a habitat for the animal. A poacher is stealing the resource and kills the animal in a way that does not respect animal welfare.
- The decision to cull the animal be it in Namibia or the US is made on a professional assessment of whether it is sustainable harvest
- Hunting fees help protect the species in both Namibia and the US
There is a clear rationale for selling hunting licenses when the harvest is sustainable, but as Bohning points out, many people have strong objections against hunting in general and these objections are compounded when the hunt is for an endangered species.
“I probably would not go on a black rhino hunt, even if handed to me for free. But the truth of the matter is that a lot of the aspects of this hunt are really no different than a hunt for a deer in the US”.