Is the black rhino extinct? The western black rhino became officially extinct in 2013, but now a Texas hunter named Corey Knowlton has won the right to kill a different sub-species of the black rhino and bring it home to the United States as a trophy. While killing the black rhinos in order to save them may sound counter-intuitive, Knowlton says that’s exactly the plan which will work.
In a related report by the Inquisitr, the death of a 34-year-old breeding male named Suni takes the species one more step toward oblivion. Although the last remaining male is under 24/7 guard by the so-called Rhino Rangers, some believe their extinction is inevitable yet still believe that technology could resurrect the white rhino after death.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, the black rhino’s population numbers in 2015 stands at 4,848 rhinos. To put this number in perspective, when The Inquisitr reported on the black rhino’s extinction the population stood at 5,055 rhinos, and back during the 1960’s there were 70,000 black rhinos roaming the wild. At the same time, Namibia’s black rhino management plan has has grown the population from 2,400 in 1995 to 4,880 by 2010. Namibia also allows five older bulls to be culled from the herd once a year.
There has been some controversy related to this management plan since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recently allowed two big game hunters from Texas to buy hunting permits for two black rhinos. This auction generated $550,000 for wildlife conservation and anti-poaching efforts in Namibia, but conservationists were appalled at the idea.
“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.”
The FWS defended the idea, saying that it wouldn’t make the black rhino extinct any faster. Instead, the goal is to cull older, potentially infertile bulls from the herd so that younger bulls can mate and grow the population.
“Black rhinos are very territorial so you will have an older male that is keeping younger males from reproducing,” explained Tim Van Norman of the FWS in 2013. “By removing these older males from the population, you get an increase in the production of calves. Younger males are able to impregnate the females that are in that area so you get more offspring than from some of these older males.”
The FWS website notes that all of the money raised from the Texas hunters will go straight to Namibia, and it also gives additional details on why they think killing black rhinos actually help conservation efforts.
“The removal of limited numbers of males has been shown to stimulate population growth in some areas. Removing specific individuals from a population can result in reduced male fighting, shorter calving intervals, and reduced juvenile mortality. All known black rhinos in Namibia are ear-notched to assist in identification and monitoring. This ear-notching system makes it possible for the Namibian government to select specific individuals for culling based on age, reproductive status and other factors that may contribute to the overall health of the population.”
Hunter Corey Knowlton has borne the brunt of the wrath generated by those who disagree whole-heartedly with the plan after he won one of two permits at the Dallas Safari Club auction in January of 2014. The FWS received 15,000 comments and 135,000 petition signatures, but it was not until recently that Knowlton was given permission to bring back his trophy. The big game hunter has faced death threats over his plan to kill the black rhino later in 2015, but he believes the $350,000 he spent will help Namibia fighter off poachers.
“If they would look beyond the headlines and beyond their own emotional reaction to it and read into it, I think a lot of them would have a different opinion,” Knowlton told CNN. “I believe hunting through sustainable use is an awesome tool in conservation that can keep these animals going forever as a species. I look at it in a realistic way — that I understand that we can’t save one individual forever. Conservation and hunting can work 100 percent together and is one of the ways that can help these animals survive for your great grandkids, and it’s been done for a long time before so it has a great track record.”
With the western black rhino extinct, do you think big game hunters should ever be allowed to kill black rhinos for sport, even if it is part of a culling program?