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Why Antis are Wrong About Corey Knowlton & Hunting the Black Rhino

by Ben O'Brien   |  January 18th, 2014 29

The fierce and unrelenting attack on hunters around the world continued this week, but this time antis have a new prime target: Dallas Safari Club and Corey Knowlton.

“They don’t know who I am,” Knowlton told CBS. “They don’t know what I’m about. They don’t even understand the process.”

Yet, the death threats came…lots of them. His social media accounts and e-mail flooded with threats not only on Knowlton’s life, but on his children’s lives as well.

“Murdering endangered animals is wrong,” one commenter contested. “You should burn in hell.”

“They’re wanting to kill me,” he told a local news station. “They’re wanting to kill my children. They’re wanting to skin us alive.”

Even though he’s been forced to employ full-time security to protect his family, Knowlton isn’t backing down.

He was initially an anonymous winner of a controversial black rhino hunt in Namibia auctioned off for $350,000 at the Dallas Safari Club Convention earlier this month, but he is anonymous no more. He’s using national news outlets to speak out.

Knowlton, a north Texas native, is a featured cast member on the popular show “Jim Shockey’s The Professionals” and works for the Hunting Consortium as a consultant. He’s hunted in six continents, taken over 120 different game species and has been a huge supporter of the conservation movement both in the U.S. and abroad.

Now he’s become yet another poster child in the modern hunter’s fight against hatred and ignorance.

Controversy Overshadows the Facts
In this new age cesspool of social media, we all seem to be drowning in our own opinions. Rational arguments have lost merit in an environment that promotes quick judgments and stream of consciousness decision-making. For some it takes little more than a photo and a headline for an action to be deemed controversial.

I would agree that some readers (non-hunters or those who have no preconceived notion on the subject) might see a photo of a black rhino, read the headline “Hunter Pays Big Bucks to Kill Endangered Rhino” and immediately think something sinister is afoot—some kind of illicit, bloody horror pulled from a Tarantino flick.

Veteran anti-hunters, of course, see an opportunity to further their mission of advocacy. It should be easy to convince the masses that hunting endangered animals is akin to murder, and they’ve got a convenient victim in Corey Knowlton.

Not so fast. This rhino tag in Namibia is at the center of one of the most regulated, most scientifically vindicated hunts that has ever taken place in Africa.

Funding Conservation through Hunting
Every black rhino that inhabits Namibia is a property of the state. This allows the government to tag every one of these animals with an ear notch. Through this tracking system officials can determine many things about the health of the population, including age and reproductive status.

But nowadays there aren’t a whole lot of black rhinos to monitor.

There is currently an estimated 5,000 in Africa—Namibia has a total of 1,750 South Western black rhinos—which is down from 65,000 individuals in 1970, according to savetherhino.org. Given those figures, the word “endangered” seems right on the money.

As with most African animals in crisis, large-scale poaching is to blame for the sharp decline, as black rhino horns can be sold on the international black market for anywhere from $50,000 to $300,000.

As a part of an aggressive plan to further the species, the Namibia Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) is funding community conservation programs, anti-poaching campaigns, translocations and wildlife-based tourism development. They also frequently move rhinos from problem regions to communal conservancies or national parks so there can be ongoing study and management.

MET views hunting as a critical part of their plan after the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species ruled in 2004 that the country could sell up to five permits for black rhino hunts each year.

This year, for the first time ever, officials decided to let the Dallas Safari Club auction off one of the permits to raise money for rhino conservation. The Club had backing from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to go forward with the auction with the express purpose of culling a “rogue” male from a herd in the Mangetti National Park. The bull targeted would be of advanced age, no longer capable of breeding and probably known to have killed or injured others in his group.

The elimination of bulls of this caliber has been proven to “stimulate population growth in some areas,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In 2012, the IUCN released  an 11-page document entitled “Guiding Principles on Trophy Hunting as a Tool for Creating Conservation Incentives,” that details the benefits of such hunts.

“The IUCN supports the philosophy and practice that on state, communal and privately-owned land in southern Africa the sustainable and well-managed consumptive use of wildlife makes a contribution to biodiversity conservation,” the document states. “And further accepts that well-managed recreational hunting has a role in the managed sustainable consumptive use of wildlife populations.”

So on Jan. 11, the scheduled auction took place, but it didn’t go down as all parties expected.

“There has been a wide range of reaction,” Executive Director of the Dallas Safari Club Ben Carter told the Washington Post. “There’s a lot of people out there, frankly, that are totally without any knowledge of how wildlife and conservation works. We’ve gotten e-mails, phone calls. One e-mail said, ‘If you auction off a permit to kill a rhino, we are going to kill you and your family.’”

One can imagine that such a reaction would cause many big-time bidders to be a bit skittish. Enter Knowlton, his anonymous sponsor and $350,000. They were able to secure the hunt with little opposition.

Knowlton admittedly wanted the experience, while also keeping a keen eye on the elements of this complicated equation.

“I want to be intimately involved with a black rhino. If I go over there and shoot it or not shoot it, it’s beyond the point,” he told WFAA news in Texas.

As with other similar endeavors, the bottom line is that hunting creates value, value leads to conservation, and conservation leads to the propagation of wild game populations.

It is the Namibian government’s vision that by 2030 all subspecies of the rhino are “re-established in viable, healthy breeding populations throughout its former range, and is sustainably utilized.”

The overall goal, they say, is to collectively manage the black rhinos of Namibia as a metapopulation, increasing it by at least five percent each year.

Now they’ve got a little extra capital to help them achieve those goals—$350,000 to be exact.

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  • Guillermo Munro Colosio

    Great article and very insightful. I understand how underfunded protected areas (PA) are and how in some occasions the same rangers help poachers get to the Rhinos. Many PA’s are loosing their pride animals because of this.
    Lack of funds. I don’t really care who bought the permit and how much. To me that is natural and like him there are millions who would have done the same. What I don’t get and I have tried to get and understand (but I don’t) is the human necessity to kill. If you (the sponsor) want the the head or the horns. Why not pay for the Rhino e-tag him and track him until it dies? The sponsor would get it right away. If a male Rhino or any other animal no matter how old it is, has the control of the cows or pride or call it what you wish (no matter what animal we are talking about). If he is standing his ground he deserves to be there because it has cost him a lot. He has defended his position well. If the animal is Critically endangered the more reason.
    It’s like taking out the commander because he is too old. “sorry chief, we got to floor you, you have done a great job but it’s time to let us fight amongst ourselves for your position” no, Commanders retire by themselves as should the Black rhino. Don’t get me wrong, this article is probably the best I have read that sees both sides of the story and not one. Your insight on the IUCN (I did not know they actually supported hunting, that was an eye opener). The main problem the Rhino faces is poaching. Horrible ways of poaching where the rhino is sedated and then the horns are hacked off while it’s still alive and confused. I think sending death threats to people are way over-the top and uncalled for. At the end he got the permit that was given by a government and that is regulated by what you mention in your article.
    I am not a hunter nor scientist I just have a point of view to complement yours, at the end I am nobody. I do care for endangered species and protecting them. But this permit is a battle that was lost the moment the government of Namibia decided to sell it. It’s a waste of time to try to stop it. yes, reaction is good. from any side. There has to be an exchange of Ideas, or not insults and threats (for what I read).
    What goes through my mind is. What will Corey think at that moment when he pulls the trigger? And once the animal is dead will there be relief? A feeling of accomplishment after taking a life? A critically endangered life? The Western Black Rhino is extinct (November 2011). There are only 4 Northern White Rhinos. The Javan Rhino in Vietnam was declared extinct in 2010. The Sumatran Rhino has fewer than 100. The Javan Rhino has from 35 to 44 The greater One Horned Rhino (In India) 3,333. The Black Rhino is at 5,055 and the White Rhino has 20,405. Killing the black Rhino put it at 5,054.
    I want to know what that feels. I take it back, I don’t.
    In a Critically endangered animal that is not a dent, it’s a sinkhole.
    In 2013 there where 946 Rhinos poached. The concentration in South Africa because they have 80% of the rhino population in the continent (the other countries have been loosing them left and right to poachers). Anyway, great article this is the first time that I write something like this and I hope the last. It is not in me to write but more to create images and graphics with data.
    Will this Permit finish off the Black Rhino? no of course, Poaching will. But I would not want to have that number in my head when I die, 5,055 to 5,054 (or less depending on the number of permits and if they are all for the Black Rhino (which if they are all for the Black rhino I will have to say That is a pretty stupid thing the Government of Namibia to do). Which bring me back to my stupid question that I cannot get. The poachers take horns, they sell them because it’s more expensive than gold at this point, that is clear to me I understand that. But what will Corey or the sponsor take? What is the drive?

    Best regards.

    Guillermo Munro “memuco”

    • mike

      Guillermo – thoughtful response…seriously and I commend you for writing it here, where so many of these posts are thoughtless, ignorant rants.

      To be completely forthright, I am a hunter. One who has hunted Africa numerous times and I 100% believe that the only way wildlife will make it in Africa (from the elephant down to the tiniest duiker) is through sport hunting. It is a simple fact that the threat to African wildlife is loss of habitat and an exploding African human population. The wild land that is set aside is over carrying capacity now with wildlife. When you have animals and starving (or greedy) people two things will happen. They will either poach the animals themselves for food or poach them to sell the meat or parts to others.

      This is a not a hypothetical, it is a fact that has been demonstrated throughout Africa time and time again…ban sport hunting to “save” animals and watch them get poached nearly to extinction by locals. Have a well regulated sport hunting industry that takes only the old, mature surplus and you have plenty of animals (this is why SA has so many white rhinos left and kenya once teeming with them has only a few remaining in highly guarded preserves/zoos).

      I can understand a non-hunter not wanting to ever participate in a Hunt for a rhino, or even being upset by the thought of it, but they need to realize that it is likely the only way to save the species outside of zoos.

      As a side note, I was in Zimbabwe last year, in an area that has roughly 100 rhinos, with a full time paid (mainly through hunters btw) anti-poaching team staying with individual rhinos nearly 24/7. Even with that type of protection they had lost 4 to horn poachers that season alone. While I was there, the team got ambushed and shot at by poachers. They returned fire and were able to capture one of the four poachers…the poachers were from Nigeria…they came all the way to Zim to poach rhinos…why? because they could get $2k to 10k apiece ( final price to end buyer is closer to $300K) but in an improverished African nation you will always have guys who will risk their life for $2k…its too bad, but true.

      The answer the head of the anti poaching group gave me was to sell rhino horn. He said, “cutting it off to protect them does zero good. Poachers kill them anyway as the stump still has some value and for no other reason than so they don’t have to track them again and waste their time.” but evidently there are thousands of horns in warehouses in South Africa (and rhino horn can be cut off like a toe nail and regrown) and by selling these legally (which is currently illegal) would reduce the price so much by flooding the market that they would no longer be worth $300k…if only worth $10k total and if a poacher could only get $200 USD for risking his life, very few would risk it anymore…seemed to make sense to me. So far nothing else has worked very well.

      • Dana

        It is nonsense to redeem your actions by bringing up poaching. Two wrongs don’t make a right or did your mom not teach you this. Sport hunting does nothing for the wildlife especially on endangered animals. This has never been proven as a fact only as a way for people who practice this form of hunting to make their self feel justified in their actions.Such brainwashing, try it on others maybe they might fall for it. I do support hunters that hunt for food to feed their family and I am far from an anti-hunting view point and come from an family of hunters however, they had ethics.

        • Ben O’Brien

          Argue with us if you want, but what you should be trying to do is debunk the arguments of the ICUN. An organization of scientists that support hunting the black rhino.

    • Dana

      I agree with you and very well stated. I also believe that the lack of funds is a serious problem.

  • baseballgene58

    If the animal lovers wanted to save the rhino why didn’t they put their money mouth is? Just bid and save the rhino? No they just talk!

    • ElCarmino

      Why don’t hunters donate to sanctuaries instead of demanding the quid pro quo of killing an animal? Your argument is specious and tired.

      • Ben O’Brien

        What would you do with a rouge rhino that does not breed and is killing other rival males? Send him to a sanctuary with no other rhinos? Those, I assure you, do not exist. Your argument is misinformed and lacks perspective and reality.

        • Dana

          Then they need to make one! I find it this has much perspective and could be a reality. You are over there often why don’t you bring it up there oh wait, that might be one less you get to kill right?

        • ElCarmino

          And so does your ridiculous belief that trophy hunters are conservationists.

        • Matt Saracen

          Misinformed? What sort of message does killing an endangered black rhino send to locals? It’s alright for rich white Americans to come over and slaughter one of our animals?

    • rex

      Genuine conservationists put their money into saving wildlife and habitats, not killing them and rationalizing it.

      • Ben O’Brien

        What if the wildlife you are killing is killing other wildlife? How do you rationalize arguing for that animal’s life?

        • Dana

          because in the wild that’s the natural process dummy. From the biggest to the smallest animal in nature kills their own. That does not give you or any of us the right to go out and kill that animal. It is natures little way of making sure the strongest blood lines survive. Spill your garbage somewhere else.

          • Ben O’Brien

            Natural processes are consistently at odds with the principles of cohabitation. You can make huge blanket statements, but look at the reality of Africa. Letting natural process and human interaction go unmanaged led to the near extinction of the black rhino in the first place. Conservation and management brought it back. Hunting is a part of that management now.

          • ElCarmino

            Sadly, where the interests of hunters and conservation conflict, hunters still err on the side of killing.

    • Dana

      1. If we were to do so then we would be supporting these types of auctions, which I have no desire to do so and be putting money in the pockets of those we wish would go broke before they do anymore damage to our wildlife.
      2. I don’t know about everyone but my bank account does not have 350,000 just laying around.
      * Stop running your mouth so much and you might be able to use your brain! We do much more than talk. We do as much as each of us can for the protection of wildlife.

  • Dennis Shome

    Animal lovers didn’t bid because they are smart enough to know that most of the money will just line the pockets of thieves. This rhino will be shot one way or another, and these so-called conservationists just sweetened the pot and upped the bounty on the rest of the rhino population.

    • Ben O’Brien

      Upped the bounty? Do you mean to say that the government of Namibia has a bounty on its own endangered animals? What proof do you have of this?

      Or, as always, are you only making wild accusations based on nothing but your bias and hatred?

      • Dana

        The African government is always doing something underhanded. If you want proof, do your own homework. I already done mine. You your head O’brien or do you not watch the news, read the papers or even visit pages on their actions. If you want proof why don’t you check them out before putting down someone else?

        • Ben O’Brien

          I’ve provided links and quotes to back up my argument. So, if the Namibian government and their wildlife management is corrupt, you’ll need to provide some the facts you mentioned.

          It’s funny you scream about how you’ve done your homework but can’t provide anything factual to the conversation.

          • Ben O’Brien

            Namibia has an outstanding, globally recognised conservation track record. Over recent decades, wildlife numbers (including both black and white rhino) have been progressively increasing not only in protected areas, but also on freehold and communal lands. This is near
            unique in any developing country. The black rhino population now stands at around 1750. Namibia has experienced very few poaching incidents despite the
            alarming escalation of poaching in neighbouring countries and despite its large free ranging population.

  • ElCarmino

    if Corey is such a conservationist, why did he hunt down and kill a huge female shark? Stop lying in his defense.

    • Ben O’Brien

      What part of my article is a lie? Please list the non-factual statements.

      • ElCarmino

        ‘has been a huge supporter of the conservation movement both in the U.S. and abroad’

        He is hardly a supporter of conservation if he kills a huge female shark for fun and bragging rights. It’s that simple.

    • Dana

      The part where he such a great person!

      • Ben O’Brien

        Where in my article does it say he’s a great person? I’ve never met him and nor have you. I can’t pass judgement, but it seems you can.

  • Dana

    1. First thing I want to say I am not anti- hunting. As a matter of fact I support hunting for food. I do not and never will support sport hunting just not be killing something. This is not what our wildlife was intended for.

    2. I am sorry that this guy has had death threats on him and his family. This goes way beyond what should ever be said to anyone and to involve his children in this argument… shame on the ones that are doing this! He is part of the human race too.

    3. The people that do not support this type of hunting are not ” totally without any knowledge of how wildlife and conservation works” We also are not ignorant As a fact and speaking for myself I’m far from it. I have been studying the effects of this type of hunting and on rare animals for the last 25 years. I guess that would give me somewhat of a sound foundation on my view about hunting. You guys seem quick to toss out this type of statements when anyone does not agree with you. Why, can you not handle other peoples views? If you people were so sure you are in the right, this would not be necessary and there would not be such an outrage for the public.

    4. The only reason that this hunt was “vindicated” is that big money was backing it. People bought and paid for. I don’t know this as a fact but if the shoe fits…

    5. If ” The bull targeted would be of advanced age, no longer capable of breeding and probably known to have killed or injured others in his group.” is true than nature will take care of this bull or a younger bull will take care of him. It’s not for us to interfere with the natural process of the wildlife. As most know we usually cause more harm than good when we do so.

    6. It does not matter how many big names backed you, wrong is wrong. I have a brain and can see past their paid for words.

    * Finally as for Corey Knowlton statement “They don’t know who I am,” Knowlton told CBS. “They don’t know what I’m about. They don’t even understand the process.” I am very glad I do not know him. I would not tolerate someone like him in my life. As for what he’s about as far as I can tell from this post and others I have read today he is about killing rare animals and hiding behind big names to make it seem right. He calls himself a “supporter of the conservation movement both in the U.S. and abroad.” I find this a two-faced statement. You can’t support killing rare animals and have backers willing to give $350,000, in order for you to do this and make a statement like that. The world needs even the old, non-breeders of rare animals that is until nature take them off this world. Hunt only what you need for food and stop the needless killing!

  • Matt Saracen

    Hunting for food is acceptable. I hunt a deer every fall. I have no problem with that as it helps feed my family for the winter. Hunting for sport – purely for the joy of killing an animal is disturbing. It shows no respect towards nature. There is no sport in pointing a rifle and pulling a trigger at a defenceless animal. It’s a cowards game.

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