A hunter paid $350,000 at a Dallas auction last night to hunt a black rhino, one of the most endangered animals on the planet.
The Dallas Safari Club sale, which has been condemned by environmental groups, was offering the chance to shoot the rare beast as a way to raise funds for the species' conservation. The identity and nationality of the top bidder at the closed-door event have not been revealed, but club spokesman Steve Wagner confirmed the sale of the Namibia hunting permit. About 40 protesters held signs and chanted outside the convention center where the auction and dinner took place.
The club claims that the rhino that the winner will hunt is old, male and non breeding — and that the animal was likely to be targeted for removal anyway because it was becoming aggressive and threatening other wildlife. But critics have questioned that logic. 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.
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. Critics have also said any hunting of a rhino sends a bad message to the public. "This auction is telling the world that an American will pay anything to kill their species," Jeffrey Flocken, North American regional director of the Massachusetts-based IFAW, said earlier this week. "This is, in fact, making a spectacle of killing an endangered species."