The Dallas Safari Club Auction – A Contradiction in Conservation

The Dallas Safari Club’s auction of a permit to kill a Black Rhino in Namibia in order to aid conservation efforts goes beyond misguided – it is absurd. To claim to be helping a declining species by killing one of them sets a dangerous precedent and completely misses the point of conservation. Instead this auction runs the risk of creating similar ludicrous auctions in other countries with endangered populations, is completely ignorant of long-term conservation efforts, and puts Namibian tourism at risk.

Auctioning off a permit to “hunt” a Black Rhino with the Namibian government’s support shows just how dire the plight of the rhino in Africa has become. Rhino poaching has increased exponentially since 2000 when the lust for rhino horn became a fad in Asia. Poor countries and small game reserves are currently losing the fight to highly organized criminal operations that can sell a single horn into the Asian black market for $150,000 to $500,000. By contrast, the locals who are enlisted to assist the poachers are paid an average of $150 for carrying out these heinous acts. The economic disparity is paramount, and the Dallas Safari Club’s alleged altruistic gesture will not ultimately help the cause, rather it will hurt it. In the short term, the final sale price of the permit can be offset by the sale of that Black Rhino’s horn; in the long-term, this auction could encourage other poor African countries to pursue similar “hunting” auctions, further decreasing the population of endangered species with no real guarantees that any monies paid to these governments will be used for conservation of the remaining animals.

One might argue that it is easy for opponents of this auction to do so from their developed, industrialized nations. I would counter, however, that there is more money to be made in Namibia and similar countries in the long-term by organized conservation that involves community members. These magnificent rhinos, regardless of their age, are a main draw for safaris and  eco-tourism in countries with “big five” populations. A properly managed conservation program that creates local jobs (both on game reserves and in the supporting service industry) will ultimately generate more income over a broader range of the population than one sensational auction. By contrast, once these rhinos are gone, there is less appeal to big game tourists in that region.

Namibia’s consent of this auction may also backfire on them. Eco-tourists contribute approximately $7 million annually to the Namibian economy. Those tourists are, by definition, sympathetic to the animals they desire to encounter. If Namibia is considered to be developing a callous attitude towards managing its wildlife, those would-be tourists (whose numbers might have great potential to increase) are likely to choose another country with more respectful, and sane, conservation policies and practices.

In short, the Dallas Safari Club’s auction of a permit to kill a Black Rhino in Namibia with the intent of saving other rhinos is a contradiction in conservation. It is simply a sensationalized and expensive way to reduce the nearly extinct Black Rhinos’ numbers by one more. I challenge the Dallas Safari Club to rescind its auction award, or only sell this permit to someone who vows not to use it.

What does it say about us if we allow the Rhino population, which has been on the planet in some form for 40 million years – to go extinct in our lifetime, especially when we have the wherewithal to stop it?

On Jan 11, 2014, KRE8 360 founder and creator of Crash: The Exhibition to Save the Rhinos, John Zaller, appeared on CNN opposing the Dallas Safari Club’s auction of a permit to hunt and kill a Black Rhino in Namibia.

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