THE BLOG

Trophy Hunting: Namibia's Shame

06/02/2015 10:03 am ET | Updated Jun 02, 2016

In January 2014 the Dallas Safari Club auctioned off a permit to kill an endangered black rhino in Namibia under the guise of conservation. The Club is a not-for-profit institution, which means your tax dollars are supporting an organization that targets and kills endangered species.

Corey Knowlton won the auction for $350,000, and on May 18 he went to Namibia to kill a black rhino. This isn't someone hunting to provide food for his family; rather he is a trophy hunter who wants to see the rhino's head on his wall.

Supposedly, the money he paid would go to the government of Namibia to support anti-poaching and conservation efforts. Even more disturbing is that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service granted Knowlton permission to bring the animal's carcass back to America.

This isn't conservation. This is murder. Black rhinos have been hunted nearly to extinction, with only an estimated 5,000 left in the world. This number is down from 850,000 through much of the 20th century, says the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

So how can we stop trophy hunters from going to Namibia to kill black rhinos and other animals? Namibia has a huge tourism-based economy; it is a $7.2-billion industry employing more than 18 percent of the country's people. Tourists should be encouraged to book their African safaris -- and let's be clear, I mean photo safaris -- somewhere other than Namibia. There are other great national parks to see in Africa, parks where animals are protected rather than slaughtered for trophies.

Ask your travel agent to direct his customers away from Namibia. Talk to your friends considering that once-in-a-lifetime trip to Africa, and warn them about the inhumane tragedies permitted by this country

We also need to let one of the most influential women in the world with ties to Namibia, Angelina Jolie, know that she should speak out against trophy hunting. Tweet her at @angelinajolie.

Ironically, it is Namibia's Ministry of Environment and Tourism that issued the permit to kill the black rhino. Its reasoning is that older rhinos are no longer able to breed and pose a threat to younger males. That raises the question of why not take the black rhino and move him to one of the protected national parks in the country. Anything would be better than killing that poor, innocent creature.

Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said recently in a statement:

It is the worst sort of mixed message to give a green light to American trophy hunters to kill rhinos for their heads. When the global community is working so hard to stop people from killing rhinos for their horns, we are giving a stamp of approval to a special class of privileged elite to kill these majestic animals as a head-hunting exercise.

Increasingly, people are directing their tourism dollars away from attractions that harm animals. This is now known as the "Blackfish backlash" after the CNN movie that exposed the atrocities at SeaWorld surrounding its killer whales.

Countries need to know the world is watching the way they treat their animals. Whether it is black rhinos in Namibia or stray dogs in the Caribbean, people react strongly and decisively when they learn that animals are suffering or killed: They take their tourism dollars elsewhere.