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U.S. officials urged to reconsider approval of black rhino trophy import

Billionaire Texas hunter seeks to import endangered animal’s entire body

WASHINGTON (September 24, 2018)—Conservation and animal-welfare groups today urged Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reconsider a federal decision to allow a Texas billionaire to import a critically endangered black rhino shot as a trophy hunt in Namibia.

The Fish and Wildlife Service gave notice Sept. 20 of its intent to issue the permit in 10 days. Black rhinos are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, but the government unlawfully approves trophy imports in a “pay-to-play” scheme.

Today’s letter from the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society International, Humane Society Legislative Fund and Center for Biological Diversity argues that such permits undermine conservation of Africa’s endangered wildlife, contrary to industry claims. “[K]illing a critically endangered rhinoceros and importing the trophy does not benefit the species,” the letter states.

The approximately 27-year-old western black rhino was shot last year by the Dallas hunter, who has his own museum of trophy kills. The permit application notes the intent to import a life-size mount of the rhino.

“Approving this permit betrays the core principles of the Endangered Species Act. The Fish and Wildlife Service is endorsing the import of a hunting trophy of an endangered species under the pretense that killing animals promotes conservation,” said Anna Frostic, managing wildlife attorney with the Humane Society of the United States. “It is telling that the three endangered species that FWS has authorized trophy imports for — black rhinoceros, bontebok and cape mountain zebra — are highly prized by trophy hunters.”

Black rhinos are highly imperiled with roughly only 5,500 existing worldwide by 2015, of which 1,946 are in Namibia.

“It’s disgusting to see federal wildlife officials giving a Texas billionaire a pat on the back for blowing away this incredibly rare rhino,” said Tanya Sanerib, international legal director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We shouldn’t be sanctioning the death of this majestic animal by allowing this trophy into the United States. The cruelty of trophy hunting simply doesn’t comport with efforts to save Africa’s imperiled wildlife.”

Poaching of rhinos for their highly coveted horns still threatens to drive the species toward extinction. Official Namibian government figures show that rhino poaching escalated from nearly zero to more than 80 in 2016, and the vast majority of rhinos poached were black rhinos. Due to the poaching crisis, the country is under consideration to join a handful of “Priority Countries for Attention” at the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which will meet in Russia next week.

The agency also approved elephant and lion trophy imports from Zimbabwe and Zambia last fall and has adopted policies favorable to trophy hunters.

The administration set up the International Wildlife Conservation Council, an advisory committee packed primarily with trophy hunters to further advise officials on how to liberalize trophy imports. The council is scheduled to meet later this week. The Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society International, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Natural Resources Defense Council, represented by Democracy Forward, have a pending lawsuit in New York challenging the various illegalities in the establishment and operation of the IWCC.

Media Contacts:

Nancy Hwa, Humane Society International, (202) 596-0808 nhwa@hsi.org
Tanya Sanerib, Center for Biological Diversity, (206) 379-7363, tsanerib@biologicaldiversity.org

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The Humane Society Legislative Fund is a social welfare organization incorporated under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code and formed in 2004 as a separate lobbying affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States. The HSLF works to pass animal protection laws at the state and federal level, to educate the public about animal protection issues, and to support humane candidates for office. Visit us on all our channels: on the web at hslf.org, on our blog at animalsandpolitics.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/humanelegislation and on Twitter at twitter.com/HSLegFund.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization, rated the most effective by its peers. Since 1954, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. We rescue and care for tens of thousands of animals each year, but our primary mission is to prevent cruelty before it occurs. We're there for all animals, across America and around the world. Celebrating animals and confronting crueltyon the Web at humanesociety.org. Subscribe to the blog, A Humane Nation. Join The HSUS on Facebook. Follow The HSUS on Twitter. See our work for animals on your Apple or Android device by searching for our “Humane TV” app.

Humane Society International and its partner organizations together constitute one of the world’s largest animal protection organizations. For 25 years, HSI has been working for the protection of all animals through the use of science, advocacy, education and hands on programmes. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide—on the Web at hsi.org.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.