Black Rhino Auctioned for $350K in the Name of Conservation


by Marc Bekoff

Should we kill in the name of conservation? Individual animals are not disposable commodities

We live in a troubled and wounded world in which humans continue to dominate and to relentlessly kill numerous nonhuman animals (animals).

A Texas hunting club recently auctioned off an endangered black rhino purportedly to save other black rhinos and their homes in Namibia. The Dallas Safari Club says, “Namibian wildlife officials will accompany the auction winner through Mangetti National Park where the hunt will occur, ‘to ensure the correct type of animal is taken.'” This is not a very comforting thought.

This sale, in which an animal is objectified and treated like a disposable commodity, raises many questions about how we try to save other species. One major question is, “Should we kill in the name of conservation?” People disagree on what is permissible and what is not. My take and that of compassionate conservation is this is not an acceptable trade-off. (Please see “Ignoring Nature No More: Compassionate Conservation at Work”, Ignoring nature no more: The case for compassionate conservation, and a Forbes interview for more on compassionate conservation.) The life of every individual matters.

The world is in dire need of healing and we must revise some of the ways in which we attempt to coexist with other animals. Some of these methods center on heinous ways of killing them “in the name of conservation” or “to foster coexistence”. Compassionate conservation stresses that the life of every individual matters and trading off an individual for the good of their own or another species is not an acceptable way to save species. And, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence that it works in any significant way.

Black rhinos do indeed find themselves trying to avoid humans out to kill them, but in Namibia only 10 rhinos have been killed since 2006. Of course, this is 10 too many, but far fewer than have been killed in neighboring South Africa where around 1000 were killed in 2012 alone.

“To destroy nature is not to conserve nature. To mount the head of a wild animal in your trophy room is not conservation, it is repugnant.”

The above quotation comes from an essay in called “Must conservation of wildlife including killing wildlife”. It was based on a 60 Minutes report titled “Hunting animals to save them?” While it dealt with wildlife ranches in Texas where people can pay a small fortune to kill various animals in canned hunts, it does raise important questions about killing in the name of conservation. Some other valuable snippets worth deep consideration include:

“If we want to conserve a population of, for instance, people native to a particular section of our country, would we kill a few to conserve the others? Isn’t that saying the group is more important than the individual? Isn’t it saying the individual gives up his or her rights to life because he or she belongs to a particular group, a particular species?”

“Each life—human animal and nonhuman animal—is an individual with an individual personality. Take a group of purebred puppies, for example—they may all look the same but they aren’t. They are their own individual beings with individual traits and personalities. Wildlife are individuals with their own individual traits and personalities. To say one is more deserving to live than another, in the name of conservation, bastardizes the word.”

Killing animals to save others sets a bad example and a regrettable precedent and is not the way to foster peaceful coexistence. When people say they kill animals because they love them this makes me feel very uneasy. I’m glad they don’t love me.

Cruelty can’t stand the spotlight and it is important that news about the sorts of activities discussed above be widely disseminated and openly discussed. That major media is covering them is a step in the right direction.

17 thoughts on “Black Rhino Auctioned for $350K in the Name of Conservation

  1. Major media is covering the “Coon” supper in Gillette, AR, where they have a 40-year tradition to eat raccoon to benefit whatever. Dem bigwigs attended this past weekend. No one seemed to mind that raccoon was on the menu or even question if the USDA ever inspected the raccoon meat. This is happening in our country and no one seems to raise any questions. Yes, we also have soul-less individuals/groups in Texas who don’t mind killing endangered species to supposedly save them. This is getting worse, not better.

  2. I would argue that this is a good thing overall. It’s not just that this rhino is no longer able to breed, but it will actively prevent other younger males from breeding through his aggression – even killing the other males, so by killing this one individual, other deaths are prevented. It should also be noted that the rhino would be shot regardless of this auction (for the above reasons) by a ranger, but by selling the permit, money is raised that will help pay for conservation efforts and hire more rangers.

    I can see the concerns, and sympathize with those who have expressed them, but I disagree with many of the arguments against this particular case. I am normally very much against hunting for sport, but this is a very successful method of conservation, especially so for endangered species, and it’s similar to what is used for elephants. This is bad for this one rhino sure, but it is in the best interest of the overall population and successful conservation of the species. This does much more to help conservation efforts than blindly protecting one individual.

    Decisions like this may be tough, but that this decision was made brings more hope for the species.

    • Can I ask why my comment above hasn’t been approved? (others after mine have been).

      If you feel it’s an inappropriate or troll comment, I would like to know what part of it caused offence. If it is just because it does not necessarily agree with your opinion I think that it is unfair to disallow it, as it was worded in a non-aggressive way, that voices my opinion without devaluing yours.

      I do agree with you that it is a shame. I believe one of the biggest tragedies on earth human desire to hunt for sport. However, I don’t believe that it is black and white, and that exceptions can and should be made.


      • I felt your earlier comment was inappropriate because it started off, “I would argue that this (the killing of rhino) is a good thing overall.” That sounds like a pro-hunting statement to me, and since your comment came right after one by a “Jose” who commented to an action alert about stopping a coyote contest hunt in Dylan, MT, with, “Thanks for advertising! The coyote derby was bigger and better than last year. Lots of successful happy hunters!! =)” I assumed you were another hunter-troll trying to get us pissed off. Since you say you are not a hunter, I’ll approve the comment and see if others think a Safari Club auction to kill a rhino is a good thing.

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