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April 16, 2013

The HSUS and HSI Criticize Decision to Allow First Import of Critically Endangered Black Rhino Trophy in More Than Three Decades

In a setback for species protection and an end to more than 30 years of U.S. protection for the critically endangered black rhino, the Obama Administration has granted approval to an American trophy hunter to import a sport-hunted rhino trophy into the United States from Namibia. Furthermore, the decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in granting approval for the hunter’s trophy import contradicts the conservation mandate of the U.S. Endangered Species Act and comes about as a resurgence in poaching is decimating wild populations of rhinos.

“Issuing this trophy import permit is a threat to rhinos, since it will now encourage more Americans to travel to Africa and start killing these imperiled animals,” said Wayne Pacelle, CEO and president of The Humane Society of the United States. “It is also a very dangerous precedent, and we have to wonder whether the federal government will start issuing permits for trophies of other critically endangered species, such as the cheetah, just because American hunters desire their heads and hides as wall hangings. Where will this stop?”

The black rhino, with fewer than 5,000 remaining in the wild, is listed as “endangered” under federal regulations. It is illegal under the ESA to import an endangered species unless it is for scientific purposes or enhances the propagation or survival of the species. Killing a member of a critically endangered species for pleasure does not qualify under these exceptions. Also, each member of a critically endangered species is more valuable alive to contribute genes to future generations.

American hunters regularly import trophies of the more abundant southern white rhino but have not been permitted to import black rhino trophies for more than three decades. The HSUS questions why the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has now approved this request (originally submitted in 2009) given the current rhino poaching crisis and the active stance of the U.S. for encouraging countries to improve efforts to stop trade in rhino horn.  

Rhino Facts:

  • Like the other four species of rhinos, the black rhino has been relentlessly hunted by poachers seeking its horn for thriving illegal markets in Asia. Ninety-five percent of the wild population of the black rhino was wiped out by poachers between 1960 and 1995. The population had been recovering but recently the price of rhino horn has skyrocketed and poaching has accelerated dramatically.
  • Since 2010, 1,637 black and white rhinos have been slaughtered for their horns in South Africa alone with the number killed increasing each year. Last year 668 rhinos were killed in South Africa alone.  
  • In recent years, tactics have evolved to where veterinary drugs, rather than guns, are used to immobilize rhinos so poachers can silently escape the scene of the crime. Rhino horns are hacked off with chain saws, along with part of the rhinos’ faces. The “lucky” rhinos die while still drugged. For the others, when the anesthetic wears off, the rhino is left to die an agonizing death through shock, blood loss or infection. Some have survived for days in this condition.

U.S. Media Contact: Rebecca Basu, +1 (240-753-4875), rbasu@humanesociety.org

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