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Is a Black Rhino Hunting Permit Auction Ethical?

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Will a black rhino hunting permit actually help the endangered species?

The Dallas Safari Club recently grabbed headlines with a wholly unorthodox plan for raising funds to help save the black rhino.

Currently, there are roughly 5,055 black rhinos left in the world, making the animal a legitimately endangered species. Organizations like the Conservation Trust Fund for Namibia’s Black Rhino have been fighting for the rehabilitation of black rhino populations for years. But money for such trust funds has to come from somewhere, and the Dallas Safari Club, in partnership with the Republic of Namibia, has hatched a plan that would allow funds to come from perhaps the most unexpected source possible: hunters.

Ironically, the plan between the Dallas Safari Club and the Namibian government for saving the black rhino actually involves the hunting and killing of the black rhino. As Wide Open Spaces already discussed here, the Dallas Safari Club will auction off a permit allowing a hunter to go to Namibia and hunt down a black rhino.

Considering the exotic, rare, and dangerous nature of rhino as hunting game, the Safari Club expects the auction to raise somewhere between $250,000 and $1 million, all of which will be donated tot he Conservation Trust Fund for Namibia’s Black Rhino.

In other words, Namibia is willfully sacrificing a few members of its black rhino population to assure the safety of the rest of the rhino population. Since Namibia hosts a substantial percentage of the world’s black rhino population – about 1,800 – it’s argued that a few kills won’t make much difference, and the money will be helpful in tracking population numbers, providing health check-ups, and preventing poaching.

While the Dallas Safari Club and the Namibian government both obviously have noble intentions with this hunting permit auction, questions regarding the ethicality of their plan have emerged over the past few weeks, largely presented by the Humane Society of the United States. Wayne Pacelle, the president of the Humane Society, has been quoted for his distaste of the auction plot, which he believes is inherently counterproductive in its approach to fundraising.

ABCNews.com reported that in Pacelle’s mind, wildlife enthusiasts interested in saving the rhinos should just donate money to the trust fund cause rather than asking for a hunting permit in return. He also argues that “the first rule of protecting a rare species is to limit the human killing,” and the Dallas Safari Club auction plan goes against that concept.

Another issue, according to Pacelle, is that hunting a rhino is an unfair pursuit of game. While the Dallas Safari Club is counting on hunters to be attracted to their auction due to the exotic nature of the hunt it offers, Pacelle points to the black rhino as a slow and “lumbering” animal that would be all too easy for a skilled hunter to shoot and kill. While a rhino’s size, weight, and horn make it dangerous, the animal also represents a large and slow-moving target – part of the reason that poachers are so drawn to killing rhinos for their horns – and Pacelle argues that hunting it with a high-powered rifle is hardly more humane than killing deer in captivity.

What do you think? Is the Dallas Safari Club promoting an inhumane and unethical practice, or does their core intention of saving the black rhino make up for the questionable nature of their proposition?

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Is a Black Rhino Hunting Permit Auction Ethical?