The Dallas Safari Club had hoped the permit to shoot a black rhino -- one of a few thousand remaining on the planet -- would have auctioned for close to a million dollars. If scarcity was the quality that drove the price, the ultimate trophy doesn't get much more endangered than this. What's more, it came with a built-in conservation conscience, since the proceeds would go to anti-poaching, research and habitat preservation efforts.
Because who wants to simply donate to the laudable goal of preventing the disappearance from the earth of a 3,000-pound horned tank without at least getting to shoot one in the process? As it happens, the opportunity turned out to be worth a lot less than the club's organizers thought: $350,000.
Though attendance and overall sales were up, they're blaming negative publicity for repelling potential bidders. "It annoys me to tears," Hanns-Louis Lamprecht of Hungers Namibia Safaris told The Dallas Morning News. "I was so angry last night. A million dollars would have lasted years, years in the conservation efforts. ... The fact is it could have been more -- it could have been a lot more."
Even so, it auctioned for $100,000 more than the last one. This year, the bidding drew international criticism over the inherent contradiction in killing the animal to fund conservation efforts to save its species. The club maintains that an old bull, past its reproductive prime, would be the rhino culled in this Namibian hunt.
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Bob Barker, former host of the The Price is Right, was like, what, so because we're old, we're expendable? "As an older male myself, I must say that this seems like rather a harsh way of dealing with senior citizens," he wrote in a letter to club president Ben Carter.
Ageist implications aside, Barker was trying to make a point. The very reason for the black rhino's endangerment is the fact that its horns have been monetized. "What makes you any better than the poachers who kill rhinos to feed their families?"
Dallas Safari Club would say that its well-heeled bidders and a big donation make the difference. In this venue, a trip to see the subject of the charitable effort in its natural habitat isn't enough. The head of one rare black rhino is simply the cost of doing business.