Photo by Bob Koons/The HSUS
The Trump Administration is set to allow an American trophy hunter to import a black rhino trophy that he killed in Namibia last year. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) received notice from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week about its decision to issue an import permit to a wealthy American businessman from Michigan, who agreed to pay $400,000 to a Namibian government fund if he received the permit for this critically endangered species. This is the sixth black rhino trophy import permit issued by the U.S. since 2013, and the third one issued during the current Administration, despite President Trump having referred to trophy hunting as a “horror show.”
“We urge our federal government to end this pay-to-slay scheme that delivers critically endangered rhino trophies to wealthy Americans while dealing a devastating blow to rhino conservation. With fewer than 2,000 black rhinos left in Namibia – and with rhino poaching on the rise – now is the time to ensure that every living black rhino remains safe in the wild,” Kitty Block, president and CEO of the HSUS and CEO of Humane Society International said in a statement. “While we cannot turn back the clock to save this animal, the Administration can stop the U.S. from further contributing to the demise of this species by refusing future import permits of black rhino trophies. Black rhinos must be off limits to trophy hunters.”
Under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, it is illegal to import trophies of endangered species unless such action is determined to enhance the propagation or survival of the species. Given the increasingly precarious status of black rhinos and the fact that trophy hunting itself constitutes a threat to the species, this vanity import fails to meet that standard.
Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund added, “Following its issuance of rules to significantly weaken the Endangered Species Act last month, the Trump Administration has dealt another blow to wildlife protection by granting its third permit to import a critically endangered black rhino trophy. If the executive branch is going to cater to special interests rather than protecting imperiled species, the Congress should pass legislation strictly prohibiting trophy imports of imperiled wildlife.”
The trophy hunting interest group Conservation Force submitted the permit application on behalf of a Michigan trophy hunter who paid $400,000 for the hunt. The hunt took place on May 22, 2018 in Mangetti National Park, Okavango District, Namibia.
In 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued its first critically endangered black rhino trophy import permit in 33 years. Since then, the FWS has issued permits for six applications.
In Namibia, poaching remains high compared to a decade ago. Poaching of rhinos increased from zero in 2006-2008 to 30 in 2014 and then tripled to 90 in 2015. The vast majority of rhinos poached in Namibia between 2014 and 2016 were black rhinos. According to news reports, 27 black rhinos were poached in Namibia in 2017 and 57 in 2018.