A permit to hunt an endangered African black rhino sold Saturday night for $350,000 at a Dallas auction held to raise money for conservation efforts but criticized by wildlife advocates.
Steve Wagner, a spokesman for the Dallas Safari Club, which sponsored the closed-door event, confirmed the sale of the permit for a hunt in the African nation of Namibia. He declined to name the buyer.
The club said all money raised will go toward protecting the species. He also said the rhino that the winner will be allowed to hunt is old, male and nonbreeding _ and that the animal was likely to be targeted for removal anyway because it was becoming aggressive and threatening other wildlife.
But the auction drew howls from critics, including wildlife and animal rights groups, and the FBI earlier this week said it was investigating death threats against members of the club.
Officials from the Humane Society and the International Fund for Animal Welfare have said that while culling can be appropriate in abundant animal populations, all black rhinos should be protected, given their endangered status.
About 40 protesters gathered early Saturday evening outside the convention center where the auction and a pre-auction dinner were to take place. They held signs and chanted.
Jim and Lauren Ries traveled with their children from Atlanta to protest the auction. Jim Ries said it was his son Carter, 12, and daughter Olivia, 11, who pushed for them to go and participate.
“The main reason we’re down here is not necessarily anti hunting, but it’s the fact that they’re auctioning off this permit to shoot and kill a critically endangered black rhino,” Jim Ries said. “There’s less than 5000 black rhinos left on the planet and if our kids ever want to see a rhino left in the wild we can’t be pulling the trigger on everyone we say is too old to breed and that gives us the right as humans to be able to make that decision, we’re just going to wipe them off the face of the earth.”
An estimated 4,000 black rhinos remain in the wild, down from 70,000 in the 1960s. Nearly 1,800 are in Namibia, according to the safari club.
Poachers long have targeted all species of rhino, primarily for its horn, which is valuable on the international black market. Made of the protein keratin, the chief component in fingernails and hooves, the horn has been used in carvings and for medicinal purposes, mostly in Asia. The near-extinction of the species also has been attributed to habitat loss.
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