Fish and Wildlife Service fails in its mission to protect critically endangered species

By on February 14, 2019 with 11 Comments

The other day, the Washington Post’s Pam Constable published a story about a wealthy American hunter who paid $110,000 for the right to kill a rare and magnificent mountain goat in Pakistan. There are just several thousand markhors alive, so it’s hard to see how killing one does the species much good. But that’s the warped and self-serving rationale of the trophy hunter, and the government agencies here and abroad who make his mischief possible.

We’re taking on such Orwellian logic and its terrible consequences very directly. On the heels of our January undercover investigation that revealed numerous wildlife products being offered for sale in violation of state law at the annual Safari Club International convention in Reno, we are opposing a permit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is poised to give to another American trophy hunter who wants to import parts of a critically endangered black rhino.

With only about 5,250 black rhinos remaining in the wild, and fewer than 2,000 in Namibia, you would think the species would be off-limits to trophy hunters. But sadly, on the contrary, rareness and endangerment only stokes their desire to add these animals’ parts to their collections.

The FWS opened the flood gates back in 2013 when it issued its first critically endangered black rhino trophy import permit in 33 years, to an American hunter who paid $175,000 to slay one of these rare animals in Namibia. The FWS allowed two more black rhino trophies to come into the United States in 2015 and permitted another in 2018. On Monday, the FWS announced it has received yet another import permit application from a different American hunter who paid $400,000 to kill a 35-year-old male black rhino in Namibia’s Mangetti National Park in 2017; he wants to import the animal’s two horns, skull, bones, teeth, four feet and full skin as trophies.

This hapless rhino, according to the application, was labeled a “problem causing black rhinoceros bull,” and moved to Mangetti from Etosha National Park in 2009. Now it is claimed he must be killed because he is interfering with breeding by younger bulls. The truth is that, in black rhino society, the older males don’t allow the younger males to breed; this is how nature works to allow these dominant males to pass their superior genes to the next generation. The real reason for authorizing the kill is revealed in the application: he has “outstanding trophies” according to the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism.

The ministry also claims that the money paid by the hunter will be used for rhino conservation. Since the black rhino is an endangered species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, the FWS can only issue an import permit if the agency finds that killing the animal and importing the trophy will enhance the survival of the species in the wild. Thus, the claims of Namibian officials are alleged to satisfy this criterion.

Of course, killing a critically endangered rhino and importing the trophy clearly does not benefit the survival of the species. The truth is that this “pay to slay” scheme is not working and is unlawful. Black rhino poaching has increased in Namibia since 2014; before then zero rhinos were poached each year; but by 2016, the number had increased to 80. This increase demonstrates that the Namibian government is failing to protect black rhinos from criminals. This escalation of poaching occurred despite American trophy hunters having paid over a million dollars to the government of Namibia over the past five years for the right to kill the last of these magnificent animals.

The U.S. government should not be issuing permits to import black rhinos from Namibia or any other country, not least because this killing does not enhance the survival of the species as required by law.

Please take a moment to leave a respectful comment asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to deny the permit application to import the trophy of an endangered black rhino—with just over 5,000 black rhinos left, it is time for the agency to step up and protect the species before it’s too late.

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

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  1. Daniel O'Brien says:

    Please don’t give up because it is very important that we protect endangered species no matter what.

  2. Nancy Cowan says:

    Please deny the permit application to import the trophy of an endangered black rhino—with just over 5,000 black rhinos left, it is time for the agency to step up and protect the species before it’s too late. I feel the survival of a species that could become extinct if the animals are continued to be killed off by egotistical trophy hunters for bragging rights and money is so much more important than egos and money. Without question, granting these permit should be made illegal.

  3. Jan Repp says:

    Please let the Black Rhino live in peace, and start protecting him!!!!!!!

  4. April Silverman says:

    So tragic that an animal cannot survive, that greedy, ignorant, sadistic people look at it and want to kill it. You can take many photos with a camera and leave the animal alive. These people
    themselves deserve to be shot many times and left to die slowly. These animals belong to me and to all the people in the world, especially to future generations!

  5. M.L. Rhodes says:

    Is it feasible to reward local villagers with food/money/Honor when there is No Decline in rhino # annually .?
    NO reward offered when rhino # decline.
    (This would require an accurate count annually, or reasonable small variation only).

  6. Kelly says:

    Please protect these endangered species now!!

  7. Judy Rogers says:

    Please deny the permit application. There is too much misery & death & we don’t need any more trinkets as reminders of the evil & inhumanity.

  8. Diane Watts says:

    I hardly know where to begin. This is so clearly wrong and yes sadistic and sick.

    What is in someone’s head to enjoy and be proud of killing in this way. Macho men?
    Donald Trump’s son?

    I despair of our world.

  9. Fran Leard says:

    I have no love for the F&G and they never do their job properly to protect our wonderful wildlife. Why are the laws not enforced to protect our precious wildlife. This craziness has to be STOPPED. It makes me sick to hear this.

  10. Michele Costa says:

    This is disheartening. It is a fact recent ex-USFW officials socialize with trophy hunters who pay big bucks to kill animals all over the world. Is this happening with the new administration, too? Is there a conflict of interest somewhere here? When did the marketing term “conservation” become acceptable for killing endangered species? The tolerance of trophy hunting is appalling and unacceptable. This permit should be denied.

    • A. York says:

      Maybe if these government officials stopped being so chummy with the St. Hubertus and Boone & Crockett crowd animals might actually be protected. We need to be investigating these “secret” hunting groups and their influence more closely.

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