The Other Guys Seeking Rhino Horns and Elephant Tusks

By on March 27, 2015 with 21 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Yesterday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife made two important announcements about trophy hunting. The good news is that the Service extended a ban on imports of sport-hunted elephant trophies from Zimbabwe, where an autocratic ruler has made a mess of the resource-rich nation’s wildlife management program. Extending the ban is the right move, not only because the wildlife programs of several nations with elephants are weak, but also because of the larger poaching crisis that elephants are experiencing. When the United States is trying to rally the nations of the world to crack down on the mass slaughter of elephants, it sends the wrong signal to grant special privileges to trophy hunters to start picking off elephants for the thrill of it.  If it’s wrong for a poor African to shoot an elephant for his tusks for profit, why should it be okay for a rich American to shoot an elephant for his tusks for the purpose of display?

That leads right into the bad news. The Service has granted import permits to two trophy hunters who have had a long-held lust to kill rhinos for their horns. They’ve agreed to pay Namibia a big sum for the privilege, and both that government and ours are in on the deal.

There are only 4,880 black rhinos left in the world, and they are critically endangered.  One of the trophy hunters, Michael Luzich, is managing partner at Luzich Partners, LLC, a Las Vegas-based investment firm. Mr. Luzich is a member of the National Rifle Association Golden Ring of Freedom, which requires a minimum donation of $1 million to the NRA to gain entry. He already killed a male rhino in Mangetti National Park in northeastern Namibia, even before he knew he would be able to import the trophy.

The other trophy hunter, Corey Knowlton, infamously ‘won’ an auction, put on by Dallas Safari Club in January 2014, to hunt a black rhino in Namibia, for which he agreed to pay $350,000. Mr. Knowlton, a professional trophy hunter who sets up hunts for others and who appears on the Outdoor Channel show, Jim Shockey’s The Professionals, stated that without the Service’s issuance of the import permit he would not hunt the black rhino. Included in his import permit application materials was a grim report by a Mangetti spokesperson stating that Mr. Knowlton would be able to choose from two bulls, Bull C and Bull D, who were selected to be killed because they were “old.”

The federal government would not allow the shooting of a free-roaming endangered species in our country, and most certainly not in one of our national parks, where any hunting is generally forbidden. But somehow, we’re giving the nod to do it in Namibia.

As a legal matter, the Service can issue such import permits only if the import “enhances the survival” of the species. In a statement, the Service claims that importing the trophies will benefit the species because removing older males “may provide the opportunity for younger, less dominant males to reproduce, leading to a possible population increase.” This statement is biologically indefensible. Biologically, both young and old males are capable of producing offspring and the number produced is dependent on the number of females, not the age of the males; and older male black rhinos have, by their very survival, demonstrated they are the most genetically fit and should therefore be the ones to pass their genes on to future generations. This “old bull” language is baseless and it’s part of the false framing efforts from the Safari Club. The Fish and Wildlife Service should know better than to repeat it.

The Service also infers that money generated from these hunts, $550,000, will be used for anti-poaching, conservation, and community development projects and that these will enhance the survival of rhinos. But there is no evidence that funds from previous hunts of black rhinos in Namibia have been used to demonstrably enhance the survival of the species. As a legal matter, the Service cannot demonstrate that killing these rhinos will enhance the survival of the species and therefore should not have agreed to issue the permits.

Beyond these biological and legal matters are ethics and matters of moral consistency. As with elephants, our nation is leading the effort to stop poaching of these largest of land mammals in the world – telling poor Africans and others not to kill these animals for their tusks and horns. Isn’t it an extraordinary inconsistency to demand an end to killing while enabling Americans to target these rhinos? What will Africans asked to help with the anti-poaching efforts think?  This narrow-minded, one-off thinking is an embarrassment, and it undermines the broader conservation efforts we are trying to serve.

And where does this pay-to-slay line of thinking end? Are all of the world’s rarest species up for grabs at a Safari Club auction? Is the Fish and Wildlife Service going to grant eager hunters the opportunity to shoot orangutans, chimps, and gorillas next if they pony up enough money? How about Siberian tigers, Asian elephants, and cheetahs? Can we do unethical things to the rarest of the world’s most magnificent animals if we pay enough money?

And let’s not lose sight, in all of these larger arguments, of Bull C and Bull D. Does one of them need to die at the hands of a man who’s been given many blessings in life, but doesn’t know well enough to limit his taking and killing? These rhinos are sentient animals living peaceful lives, eating, sleeping, breeding, and going about their business. Thankfully they are unaware of the self-congratulatory and selfish plans of a person who wants to travel halfway around the world for the thrill of shooting a creature about as difficult to stalk as a parked bus.

Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. David Bernazani says:

    And what do we say to the African park rangers who risk their very lives every day to protect the rhinos, and for whom they have seen their fellow rangers die? What do they think of wealthy Americans who pay obscene amounts of money to frivolously do the very thing they spend their lives fighting? It’s not just an embarrassment, it’s a disgrace upon our entire country.

    • John Hopkins says:

      That’s exactly right. African park rangers having been training and working hard to stop poachers, sometimes dying, and then here come the arrogant Americans, acting as if the killing they are doing is somehow justified. The only difference between the American faux hunters and poachers is that they pay a lot of money to carry out their criminal act and agencies, like the USFWS take the money and rationalize why this is all okay and enable this atrocity to continue. For the USFWS to approve the import license and for the Namibia government to allow this and for the hunters to carry out their lust for blood for a critically endangered animal is about as despicable and deplorable that these people can be.

  2. Ellen Myers says:

    For starters it appears as if everyone is somewhat delusional. The person wanting a trophy of what is nothing more than a violent murder of an unassuming, animal living in his Home and bothering no one, is not exactly something to brag about. If the gun is big enough and the car is fast enough, and the guide is good enough, and the animal has been moved somewhere to be a target for it’s slaughter, that’s all it is. There is no Trophy…..There is no skill, nor is there any success except being able to gun something down, like a gangster with cash and a pay off, and that is essentially what is being done. People are being openly bribed by some man’s money to help him attend to a personal killing, a slaughter he has a craving to carry out. Lovely…..
    To do this to one of our planets most ancient of animals which is becoming extinct due to people like this guy and law makers on the take and assuming the public is stupid enough to believe the ” slant” of WHY they are allowing it. This is certainly not any example to set for anyone of a younger generation about caring for our habitat in any ethical manner. It’s nothing but a staged killing and a completely stacked deck…..Some guy wants to kill something really big. No doubt this guy hates himself so much, he’s going to go out there to prove he’s hot s……. HARDLY!! That is the biggest sadness about the delusional nature of the whole thing. Someone kinder than he, and wiser should stop it from happening.

    • John Hopkins says:

      Agreed. This has nothing to do with any skills. As Wayne Pacelle said “it’s like stalking a parked bus.” What a lot of trouble to fly around the world and go out into the brush, where the peaceful rhinos are minding their own business and end its life, worsening the crisis that is facing these animals already. How close to the threshold of extinction does the rhino or lion or elephant need to get before the USFWS and Namibia and other governments and hunters say this is enough. If you want to brag about your shooting skills, hit a paper target at 100 or 200 or 300 yards. That’s skill without the kill, the way it should be. Stop taking money for these beautiful lives. These animals aren’t here to be targets or pawns in your disgusting game.

  3. Joan Wilken says:

    My main concern is what can we do about this? Apart from petitions? People like this foolish wealthy idiot obviously has no conscience and is so used to use his wealth to get what he wants.This is such a tragic decision the US Fish and Wildlife made, I hope it wont be repeated.

  4. Charlene Inglis says:

    This makes me physically ill. Only a demented human could do such a thing.

  5. Annoula Wylderich says:

    Some things (and people) should stay in Vegas. . .

  6. Fadila AlUbeidi Hachimi says:

    I am furious, indignant and frustrated by this decision, that is like giving this killer the prize for his kill

  7. Dodie Shepard says:

    Poachers or buyers are never punished enough. There is no incentive for them to stop what they are doing. I’m sure it is quite financially rewarding also. Serious Fines and jail time would be one way to curb some of the “fun” possibly.

  8. Ashley Hodge says:

    Hi Wayne! I completely agree! Will you please start a petition to STOP any import of trophy hunting into the US? I know you will get the support you need from the general public.
    I’m embarrassed that US Fish and Wildlife are even considering it.

  9. Ashley Hodge says:

    I completely agree! Please, if there’s any way you can start a petition to STOP all trophy imports into the USA – I know you will get the support you need from the general public.

  10. Marianna Garris says:

    I think it is the most absurb thing I have encounter to kill a Rhino. Its already extinct, does these idiotic humans know what it means. All about greed and not enough matchoness in the bodys, have to prove themself to the world. Absolute disguss me humans like this. Please stop these permits, its a Sin the eyes of the LORD.

  11. Amy Arce says:

    OR is there anyway to let the clients of Luzich Partners know what kind of abhorrent activity n which their commissions are being spent? This story is outrageous in that these two disgusting people are allowed to do whatever they want as long as they can pay. Shocking on every level

  12. shelva wood says:

    Truly beyond my comprehension that this is actually happening, not one living, breathing person on the face of this earth would never, ever allow this to happen!! The few people that have allowed this has to be COLDBLOODED, HEARTLESS & ALSO WITHOUT A BONE IN THEIR BODIES!! SHAME, SHAME, SHAME THAT THIS WORLD HAS COME TO THIS!!

  13. Peter Egan says:

    Its ironic when the US remains the second largest market for Ivory after China that the govt tries to claim it is supporting the growing international outrage at what is happening to endangered species like Elephants and Rhinos. This latest decision just confirms the old adage that money talks and sends out the totally wrong signal that it is ok to kill any species if there is enough profit in it – shame on the USA & USFWS, you are a disgrace.

  14. susan yurchuck says:

    This is obscene HSUS….

  15. Dian Hardy says:

    Not sure this will come through but it’s the MoveOn Petition to US F&W….

  16. connie sherwood says:

    We should shun trophy hunters period. Refuse to shop at camping stores that display trophy animals on the wall! People with money should not be allowed to kill whenever and whatever they want. It is sickening.

  17. Bryan Dummer says:

    Whats sad about this , The Safari Hunt club is made up of Senators , goveners and many wealthy americans that can get any permitt signed through the backdoor .I am sure this will happen again , When Corey returns home with his trophy and bragging rights , it will only spark more auctions

  18. Robin Kirk says:

    This is more than heartbreaking. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife made a politically expedient decision. Mr. Luzich and Mr. Knowlton will have their remnants of their “kills” mounted to their respective walls. That is all the mounted heads of these beautiful animals will be: empty of soul, empty of life, tokens, mementos, prizes. Certainly not evidence of anything such as valor. It will take nothing so lofty as valor to kill these animals, and it’s very doubtful that it will take much skill. All it took for Mr. Luzich and Mr. Knowlton to become imminently successful “hunters” of a black rhino was their money. Your money won the game for you, gentlemen. I simply hope that, when the moment comes, the rhino looks into your eyes and you look into his eyes. He will see you for who you are, but because of your poverty of soul, you will never have seen who he is. You think that you “bought” something that can never belong to you. That is why you feel so empty in your trophy room. They are not there. They never were. They never will be. So, for you, continued unfulfillment, and for the black rhinos, peace.

    • John Hopkins says:

      Well spoken Robin Kirk. It is so hard to understand how these guys can kill these animals without remorse or thought to their reprehensible actions. Their lack of compassion for these lives prevents them from seeing how foolish and shameful is their need to bring home these so called trophies. These are spoiled, rich men with a need to constantly prove how powerful they are without a thought to how destructive they are. If only the governments of Namibia and other African nations would worry less about the money from these killers and more about the animals and the tourists who want to see them and photograph them. Better image for the countries. As for the USFWS, you are cowards and hypocrites.

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