Saving the rhino in Africa, from China and Vietnam is a familiar scenario. But another disturbing piece of the equation lies within the US. American hunters have long been drawn to the thrill of “big game”, hunting down rhino, elephant and lion in Africa.
Recently the US Fish and Wildlife Services set a new precedent, giving permission to a hunter to bring back his rhino kill from Africa. This has not been allowed for 30 years. Opening the door to wealthy Americans to slaughter endangered species in the wild for trophies is a dangerous trend to start.
Of course it takes two to tango. Shame on the Namibian government for allowing the hunt, and shame on US Fish and Wildlife for encouraging the hunter with incentive to keep the trophy.
According to Fish and Wildlife, “The Service cannot and will not allow the importation of sport-hunted trophies of species protected under the Endangered Species Act unless a comprehensive review determines that those trophies are taken as part of a well-managed conservation program that enhances the long-term survival of the species.”
What is well-managed? It seems if any of us had well-managed a species, they wouldn’t be endangered. And what is the point of recognizing and labeling a species as threatened, vulnerable or endangered if we’re going to allow them to be hunted down? Is it because if they seem more rare, the price tag on their heads rises, and in the end both governments make more money?
Pro-hunting groups will have you believe by paying to hunt a species, the funds go toward saving them, therefore making conservation sense. However, in this particular case Namibia made $175,000 for their “conservation fund” which in reality is a general fund used for multiple purposes, including rural development; hardly a benefit to the rhino.
However to satiate American hunters’ needs to “bag the big one”, they can also kill endangered species closer to home. In Texas alone, there are 500 ranches that in recent years have switched from raising cattle to the multi-million dollar industry of “exotic hunting”. There are species here thriving in Texas, that are almost extinct in Africa (i.e three species of endangered antelope and Grevy’s Zebra). Yet they survive only to be killed.
Not only is it illogical and seemingly unethical to breed endangered species simply to exterminate them, but the other part of the issue is the method of the hunt. Many of these hunts are canned hunts, which some within the hunting community even see as unethical. (See previous post: Shooting Fish in a Barrel)
Endangered animals need protection. Not just from the country they’re in, not in a ‘save by killing’ method, there are no exceptions. They need to be encouraged to breed, given space to do it in, and given the every chance to survive.