Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published notice that it has received import permit applications for two individuals who want to shoot critically endangered black rhinos in Namibia and then import the trophies into the United States. One of the permits was auctioned for $350,000 at a Dallas Safari Club event and went to Corey Knowlton, who is trophy hunting consultant and TV personality. Michael Luzich, a certified member of NRA’s “golden ring of freedom” which requires a minimum donation of $1 million, also filed an import permit application.
It’s one thing to hunt for food, but a different matter just to shoot an animal for his head. It’s an even more significant moral problem to shoot a survivor among a very small population of a critically endangered species. No matter how the trophy hunting crowd dresses it up, the greatest need of these animals is to stay alive. This means securing additional protections for them, including space to live and protections from poachers. For that reason, we’ll be opposing the granting of these permit applications.
But we will be supporting the effort by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has responded to our petition for listing, to establish federal Endangered Species Act protection for the African lion. There were about 75,000 African lions in 1980, according to the best estimates of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Now there are between 32,000 and 33,000, most concentrated in 10 areas in eastern and southern Africa, and they are subject to killing by poachers, ranchers, trophy hunters, and other traffickers in wildlife parts, in a part of the world that is seeing significant human population growth. That’s why it’s critical to limit human-caused killing of the lions, including for trophies and parts.
After a 90-day comment period, if the Service takes action, the African lion would be the last big cat to be added to the list of protected species. Our team has been working on this issue for nearly four years, and I vividly remember the 60 Minutes piece where ranchers were poisoning lions in their range in extraordinary numbers. With so many threats, the last thing the lions need, just as with rhinos, are wealthy Americans going over to kill them just for bragging rights and the heads.
Aren’t we beyond this, especially when it comes to some of the rarest and most charismatic species on the planet?