The trophy is coming back to North Texas. Corey Knowlton, the Royse City hunter who bought the right to kill a Namibian black rhino at a Dallas Safari Club auction in January 2014 , has been approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to bring his spoils back from Africa.
"The future of Africa's wildlife is threatened by poaching and illegal wildlife trade, not responsible, scientifically managed sport hunting," USFWS Service Director Dan Ashe said in a statement. "We remain committed to combating heinous wildlife crimes while supporting activities that empower and encourage local communities to be a part of the solution."
The USFWS says that the hunting permit purchased by Knowlton and issued by the Namibian government helps preserve the endangered species:
The black rhino hunts associated with the imports of two sport-hunted trophies are consistent with the conservation strategy of Namibia, a country whose rhino population is steadily increasing, and will generate a combined total of $550,000 for wildlife conservation, anti-poaching efforts and community development programs in Namibia.
Namibia's Black Rhinoceros Conservation Strategy concentrates on maximizing population growth rates through biological management and range expansion, with an overall goal of increasing Namibia's black rhino population by at least five percent per year. Under this strategy, Namibia's black rhino population more than doubled between 2001 and 2012. Local communities are an integral part of this strategy and receive direct benefits from the presence of black rhinos, thereby providing a disincentive to poaching.
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Over the course of a 30-day comment period that ended in December, the USFWS received more than 15,000 comments and 135,000 petition signatures against granting the permit, but granted it anyway after examining the comments for "scientific or technical information." Many of the comments, a USFWS spokesman told CNN in December, were similar form letters.
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, criticized the USFWS decision.
"With rhino poaching on the rise -- more than 1,200 were poached in 2014 including two dozen in Namibia -- it is the worst sort of mixed message to give a green light to American trophy hunters to kill rhinos for their heads. When the global community is working so hard to stop people from killing rhinos for their horns, we are giving a stamp of approval to a special class of privileged elite to kill these majestic animals as a head-hunting exercise. The inconsistency is startling, and upends our moral authority," he said in a statement.