Northern Namibia (CNN)In January 2014, Corey Knowlton bid $350,000 for a permit to hunt and kill a black rhino in Namibia.
He won the permit and became a target himself.
The hunt is now complete. A rhino is dead.
This is how it happened.
Windhoek, Namibia — Knowlton arrived quietly in Namibia to hunt the famed black rhino.
Nearly 18 months ago, the Texas hunter bid $350,000 to kill a black rhinoceros in the southern African country of Namibia. The permit was issued by Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism and auctioned by the Dallas Safari Club.
Since then, Knowlton has faced scathing criticism and death threats as the world reacted to the controversial hunt of one of the world’s most endangered species. Knowlton has spent the last year and a half preparing and planning the hunt that is being highly scrutinized by animal welfare groups around the world.
He agreed to let our CNN crew document the hunt.
“At this point, the whole world knows about this hunt and I think it’s extremely important that people know it’s going down the right way, in the most scientific way that it can possibly happen,” Knowlton said after arriving in Africa.
Knowlton, 36, from Dallas, wants the world to see that the hunt of such a majestic beast on the African continent is not the work of a bloodthirsty American hunter but a vital component of Namibia’s effort to save the animal from extinction.
Knowlton’s $350,000 will go to fund government anti-poaching efforts across the country. And the killing of an older rhino bull, which no longer contributes to the gene pool but which could harm or kill younger males, is part of the science of conservation, he argues.
That’s why he says he’s doing more to save the black rhino than his critics, and why he wanted us along on this historic hunt.
Opponents like the International Fund for Animal Welfare have not been swayed, saying hunting as conservation is a bankrupt notion. “We’ll simply never agree with that,” fund director Azzedine Downes said. “There’s a lot of other things that we can and must do in order to protect these animals.”
The journey of this hunt will examine the emotional debate raging around the issue of how best to protect endangered species on a continent that is home to some of the most legendary animals on the planet.
“I think people have a problem just with the fact that I like to hunt,” Knowlton said. “I want to see the black rhino as abundant as it can be. I believe in the survival of the species.”
Northern Namibia — The hunt sets off with a sunrise flight to the region of Namibia where Knowlton will track a black rhino.
There’s a great deal of concern about news coverage of the hunt in Namibia. We’ve been told that when our reports are broadcast around the world that Namibian government officials fear poaching syndicates will use the information to identify the location of other black rhinos.
For that reason, we have agreed not to report the specific locations of the hunt. According to animal conservationists, there are approximately 5,000 black rhinos in the wild worldwide today, 2,000 of them in Namibia.
Hentie van Heerden is a professional hunter hired by the Namibian government to guide Knowlton on the highly scrutinized hunt of the black rhino.
Van Heerden, 40, has an international clientele, mostly from Europe, who come to hunt wild game and the exotic animals of Africa.
He was born in Namibia and grew up hunting. The thorn-infested terrain in the north of the country does not faze him. He wears sandals even when he hunts the wildest of animals…