Murdering for Conservation: Killing Rhinos Sometimes Makes Sense

Mar 30, 2015
Murdering for Conservation: Killing Rhinos Sometimes Makes Sense

Authorities in Namibia want to let American hunters kill a pair of rhinos, the US federal government is OK with it

This week, the US Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to let American hunters pay a visit to Namibia and kill two critically endangered black rhinos. Since the species is, well, pretty darn close to going extinct, the decision was subject to heavy criticism. In fact, people are still badmouthing the US federal government over it.

The thing is that, moral considerations aside, the Fish and Wildlife Service did right when okaying these controversial hunts. As downright insane as this might sound, the fact remains that, at least this one time, killing a few individuals makes sense when it comes to securing a better future for their species. Or even just a future, since we’re talking about critically endangered black rhinos.

The hunts will generate funds for conservation

Namibia isn’t just going to let the American hunters wander off into the wilderness and fire their guns at whatever pair of black rhinos they come across and decide would look great on their wall, horns pointing towards the fireplace or the living room door.

Instead, the country sold the permits to kill the two critically endangered animals for the grand total of $550,000 (roughly €500,000). This money will serve to fund future conservation work and help Namibia make sure that the species does not go extinct, at least not on its territory.

Admittedly, selling hunting permits, especially when they concern rare creatures, goes against anything we could ever call moral behavior. However, this does not change the fact that, to save black rhinos, Namibia needs money, and quite a lot of it.

To get this money and carry on with its conservation work, the country needs to be pragmatic, and this is precisely what it did when it sold the hunting permits for the two critically endangered black rhinos. It’s not pleasant but this is just the way things are.

We’re not talking about mindless killings

The hunters that the US federal government authorized to kill black rhinos in Namibia and then bring their corpses back home as trophies will not be shooting their weapons at random animals minding their own business in the wild.

Instead, the hunts will be supervised by authorities in Namibia who will make sure that the targeted animals are not mothers, calves or young males, but bulls that are long past their prime and that, being aggressive, are a threat to others of their species.

In a way, these kills are a form of population control, seeing how, with the old bulls out of the picture, young males will too get a chance to mate and the genetic pool of Namibia’s black rhino population will become a tad more diverse.

Besides, it’s important to keep in mind that, over the past few years, the number of black rhinos living in this corner of Africa has almost doubled. Otherwise put, the country can afford to lose a pair, especially if it’s for the benefit of the species.

It’s not the individual, but the population that matters

This might come across as a bit harsh, but the fact of the matter is that conservation efforts focus not on individuals, but on populations. This is why officials in Namibia sold the hunting permits and this is why the US Fish and Wildlife Service backed up the move.

True, paying for the right to kill a critically endangered animal is morally condemnable. Still, the death of the two black rhinos American hunters will soon go looking for will benefit their species by generating funds for conservation work and will not affect the current population.


It would be great if this world of ours were a perfect place and such things never had to happen, but this is by no means the case, and like all of us, folks in Namibia have no choice but to make the most of the hand they were dealt.

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