Activists slam Nam's 'pay to slay' hunting

13 September 2019 | Environment

The hunting of Namibia's black rhino is in the international spotlight again, with conservation and animal welfare groups calling for an end to the “pay-to-slay scheme” that delivers rhino trophies to wealthy Americans, saying it deals a devastating blow to rhino conservation.

This comes after the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that it would issue a permit to a Michigan trophy hunter to import the skin, skull, tail and horns of a black rhino he had shot in Namibia.

This is the third time since 2017 that the FWS has issued a permit to import a black rhino trophy.

According to documents on the FWS website, Chris D. Peyerk of Michigan applied in April last year for the permit required to import animals protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Peyerk paid N$5.8 million for shooting the rhino bull in Namibia's Mangetti National Park on 22 May last year.

According to documents submitted by the environment ministry in support of the import permit, the 29-year-old rhino was harming population growth by interfering with breeding by younger bulls. It said the rhino meat was distributed to local communities.

The Humane Society criticised the federal decision to allow Peyerk to import the trophies.

“This pay-to-slay scheme has become increasingly common in the United States and elsewhere, with trophy hunters claiming that they are benefiting African economies and helping conservation efforts when they kill already imperilled animals.

“But as studies have shown, there is little evidence that the money actually helps threatened species or communities – in reality, it mostly goes toward lining the pockets of hunting companies and corrupt officials.

“What is clear is that trophy hunting is driving some animals – already under threat from poaching, habitat loss, and trafficking – to extinction,” said Kitty Block, the head of the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International.

She said there is no justification for a handful of people with deep pockets and friends in high places to continue robbing the world of its most prized and beautiful wildlife.

Safari Club International, an American hunting organisation, on the other hand, emphasised the role of hunting in rhino conservation. It said Namibia had more than doubled its black rhino population between 2001 and 2012 and it continued increasing by 5% a year.

“They achieved that through a conservation programme that relies on sustainable trophy hunting to manage herd balance, fund counter-poaching operations, fund park management and incentivise local communities to protect rhinos,” it said.

According to the organisation removing a small number of post-reproductive rhino bulls through hunting promotes population growth.

“If trophy hunters are not used for this purpose, conservation rangers will be forced to do it. But then Namibia's conservation department would not receive in excess of $400 000 per rhino for its rhino management programme. So, regulated sport hunting is good for increased rhino numbers,” Safari Club said.

It said Namibia should be applauded for implementing a conservation programme that prioritises the needs of the greater rhino herd over individuals.

There are only about 5 500 black rhinos in the wild, nearly half of which are in Namibia. Every year, Namibia issues five permits for hunters to legally kill the animals.

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