Texas millionaire and hunter Corey Knowlton recently paid $350,000 to kill an endangered black rhino in Namibia. There are only 4,000 to 5,000 black rhinos left in the world, and now there is one less. While it’s easy to paint Corey as a monster, he says that hunters like himself are endangered animals’ best hope for survival.
Corey is a lifelong hunter, but he didn’t have a lifelong dream to kill a rhino. In 2014, he was attending a hunting convention when a friend, John Jackson, asked him for a favor. The Dallas Safari Club was auctioning off a license to kill a black rhino in Namibia, but the auction had gotten a lot of bad publicity. Jackson was worried that no one would participate, so he asked Corey to make the first bid to get the ball rolling. He agreed to help and made the first and only bid of $350,000.
Not long after he won, the threats began. “I hope the rhino rips you in half. Do your children know what a monster their father is? I hope you get what you deserve. A short and painful existence.” Others threatened to murder his parents, rape his wife, burn his house, and kill his kids. Most people would have backed down, but Corey said that animal conservation is too important.
One of the biggest threats to the black rhino is poachers. Rhinoceros horn is worth $60,000 a pound on the black market, so rhinos are a prime target for illegal hunters. Hunters like Corey say that legalized hunting of these animals pays for protecting them from poachers. And it encourages landowners to reintroduce these endangered animals on their land. In South Africa, the white rhinoceros increased from a few hundred to 11,000 after hunting it was legalized.
It seems counter-intuitive that hunting could contribute to the survival of animals, but the hunting licenses are very limited. Corey was allowed to kill one of two specific elderly male rhinos. Older males are known to kill younger male rhinos, who are more likely to breed.
Paying huge amounts of money to kill endangered animals does not sit well with many people. Conservationist Jeff Flocken says, “If you pay to take a human life and give to humanitarian causes, it does not make you a humanitarian. And paying money to kill one of the last iconic animals on earth does not make you a conservationist.” Corey, on the other hand, says he is a realist. And if we want these species to survive we must put a dollar value on them.