Dallas Safari Club, the big game hunting group that auctioned off a permit to kill an endangered black rhino in January, has wired a "donation" of $350,000 to the Namibian government. But the donation, it turns out, is contingent on whether the club obtains a permit from the U.S. government to import the animal's carcass as a trophy.
The Namibian obtained documents stating that the money -- $3.7 million in Namibian currency -- will only be wired to the country "upon granting of the import permit" from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which is still pending. Animal advocates have petitioned USFWS not to grant the permit, saying that it encourages trophy hunting and sets the wrong precedent for conservation.
Ben Carter, the executive director of the Dallas Safari Club, defended the move by saying that the Namibian government will cull the rhino regardless, and that if the bid is withdrawn, the money won't go towards rhino conservation.
"A black rhino in Namibia is going to be hunted, period," he said. "It's a biological, practical necessity. The only question is how to make it as meaningful as possible from a financial standpoint to the larger issue of species survival."
But Jeff Pierce of the Animal Legal Defense Fund pointed out that withholding the money is indicative of the club's motives.
"If the DSC were serious about conservation, it would donate the money irrespective of its opportunity to import the carcass into the US," he said. "By making its donation contingent on this outcome, an outcome wholly beyond the control of the Namibian government, the DSC is potentially undermining the ability of Namibia's Ministry of Environment to fulfill its mission of conservation while at the same time applying undue political pressure on Fish & Wildlife."
The man who won the bid, a hunting tour guide named Corey Knowlton, was criticized harshly for the move. Jeff Flocken, North American director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, told National Geographic, "taking a highly endangered species, and generating a furor to kill them in the name of conservation is not going to do anything to help them in the long run."
The Dallas Safari Club has not responded to requests for comment.