This topic has been covered well in the media this week, so I was hesitant to throw my thoughts out into the blogosphere too, but the subject matter makes my skin crawl so much that I had to go ahead and write about it: the auction by a hunt club in Texas to give the highest bidder a chance to kill an ENDANGERED black rhino in Namibia.
Where do I begin? First of all, according to a blog posting on National Geographic’s website, this is only one of five rhino permits that the Namibian government will hand out this year. So not only is one ENDANGERED rhino facing its death, but many will! This is a species that numbers less than 2,000 animals in the country, a population crash of nearly 96 percent over the last century. How few individuals does a species have to have in order for all hunting of it to cease?
Illegal poaching for the rhino’s horn, which is used in traditional Chinese medicine, kills numerous individual animals too. Supporters of the hunt say that the $350,000 raised by the auction will go to protect the other rhinos from poachers. It’s all about conservation, they say. Bullshit is what I say! If these people truly cared about conservation, and not the need to kill something to show what a man they are, and put a rhino head on their wall, they would donate to conservation organizations that work in Africa to create new parks and reserves and to hire additional rhino guards to protect them from poachers. They would not put their money where their gun is. Using the word conservation in this context is just disgusting to me.
And don’t think that I am some ultra-liberal animal rights activist here, who is against all forms of hunting. I am not. I used to be, but as I have educated myself about hunting and the environment, I certainly see its place – at times. Humans have altered the natural landscape so much through the killing of predators like wolves and mountain lions, along with creating the perfect habitat for nuisance species like Canada geese and white-tailed deer, that hunting is one of the few viable options left. If people didn’t hunt deer, our forests would never regenerate trees, except for perhaps some invasive ones. So I support hunting where it keeps the ecological web in check. That is not the case with the rhino hunt.
We are talking about a species under threat from many angles. The black rhino is ENDANGERED, which means it’s on its way to being EXTINCT. That means it is gone for good. I may never see a rhino in Africa although I hope to!), but that makes the species no less precious to me. I can’t travel to Namibia right now and watch the rhinos like a hawk to make sure no one guns them down, but I can use my keyboard and the internet to spread the word. What this hunt represents IS NOT conservation, no matter how they spin it.
I will leave you with a very apropos quote from John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, “Take only pictures, leave only footprints,” not take only trophies, leave only shell casings!