THE BLOG

Killing for Conservation?

02/26/2014 10:14 am ET | Updated Apr 28, 2014

I've been sitting here watching the debate on if it is logical, humane or in any way helpful for Corey Knowlton of the Dallas Safari Club to have paid $350,000.00 to get to kill one of the last rhinos on Earth... for conservation.

Yes, FOR conservation.

I find this very surreal. Especially since I've spent about the same amount of money to try and "conserve" the last rhinos in Africa as well and in all my endless hours of research and thought and travel and conversations with Africans and filming and agonizing over how to help elephant and rhino, I never once considered shooting one of them.

And this is why... the problem is in the idea.

Think of how we'd apply this concept to the other top black market trades, of which rhino horn poaching is number four.

Human trafficking is number three. What if we auctioned off just one child in to human trafficking and slavery... and used those funds towards stopping human trafficking? We sacrifice only one child to save many others. Or what if our government for just one week or even one year went in to the heroin business, the number one illegal trade. Our government hits the streets and peddles heroin for just one year and with those millions of dollars then tries to stop heroin trafficking. Or the illegal gun trade? We could sell guns to the terrorists or whoever is paying top dollar and then use that money to try and end terrorism. We could raise millions.

This rings wrong to many of us and also inspires little confidence it will actually lead to less slavery, narcotics or terrorism. But why?

First I must point put where the hunter mentality and mine differs. The hunter needs stuff to kill now and in the future. So he says, lets kill one now and use that money to insure there are plenty to kill later. That is why American hunters often manage maintaining enough numbers of wildlife and areas of open land, more so than other people. The hunter doesn't want to end rhino hunting, he is actually trying to ensure rhino hunting. This is arguably sound WESTERN logic and in it's American bubble, it has worked for some species and also to protect open spaces. I'll confess I wish they never shot anything again, especially in this case as the black rhino went extinct in November and others are down to less than ten. Personally, when I see a majestic, rare, marvel of Gods creation I also think to shoot it, but with a camera.

Different stokes. Fair enough. So I will leave that out of the rest of my argument.

But the reason we don't have enough rhinos is NOT because of guns, or men, or Asians (the largest market for dead wild animal) or Americans (the second largest market for dead wild animal). The reason why we don't have enough rhinos anymore is because of this IDEA that all living beings are put here solely to be products for man's use. And man has used so many, there are few left. This is true of all wild animals, especially in Africa where the raping has been extreme. This is not because of guns or men or countries, it is this IDEA that we can TAKE whatever we want that is the culprit, the reason why we have less clean water, buffalo, mountain tops, tigers etc... is because we can just take what we want. There is NO other reason. And I suspect that the challenges will not change until we decide to transmute that idea from "I take" to "I exchange" -- an old American Indian idea and also this is an African idea. I give you a chicken, you give me a blanket. As my mother taught me, we don't "sell or overpower or persuade" -- we "exchange." Everyone wins. If the other person or city or state or country or forest has nothing left to give us, we don't take from them, we only give to them.

That is what I am trying to do. I am attempting to give assistance to the rhino, to the elephant, to the African, to Mother Earth and very personally to all the life God has given me. Shooting one of Africa's last old blind rhinos is not by definition giving, or respecting or conserving in an AFRICAN equation. If Corey, or his boss Robert Kern of The Hunting Consortium in Texas, or whoever the anonymous shooter will be, wants to conserve, they won't do it with Western thinking, in Africa. It won't work because... you can't solve a problem with the same idea that created the problem and you can't use Western thinking in Africa.

If Corey really wants to help conserve rhinos... well, they obviously have the money for conservation, why then go kill the rhino? Why not just do the conservation part? They could go meet the old rhino and take a photo of him grazing happily, instead of a photo with his dead body and then mounting the rhino's head on his study wall back in Texas. This rhino's head belongs on his body and also IN AFRICA.

Instead this is how it will go. Corey bought a license to shoot not just any rhino, he bought a license to kill a specific old rhino we'll call Henry. The hunter, we'll name as Corey (but it's been said it will be a hidden client), will fly to Africa and be driven near enough to Henry in a land rover. "Corey" may or may not get out of the land rover. Doesn't need to, but he can if he wants to stretch his legs. "Corey" will raise his rifle and the old, likely almost blind, rhino may hear the cocking of the rifle or smell "Corey" on the wind, so Henry may even turn his head to look in the direction of the person who bought his life so far away in America. Then "Corey" will pull the trigger and Henry's endangered distinguished life will be over, hopefully quickly. Then "Corey" will take many photos with the carcass. He'll then saw off and import Henry's head for his wall at home because the US Fish and Wildlife is allowing him to do so.

And I can promise you that the heroic rangers I met for weeks in the African bush who risk their lives, and sometimes die, for every single one of their last rhino will not feel a victory for conservation. Expressed better than I ever could by an Honorary Kenyan ranger in this moving open letter to Corey.

Raabia Hawa and other Africans have expressed that they are saddened, and disrespected, as this is proof that this ASIAN and WESTERN idea that their countries animals are just products for us to take, is still alive and well. The NGO's, the scientists who live in the bush all year to learn how to protect wild animals, the people who feed their families based on LIVE animals for tourism will not cheer because Henry is no longer grazing. Maybe they will also wonder if Corey, his boss Ryan, and the shooter, really want rhinos to live why they didn't just go to Africa with a camera and take pictures of Henry alive, as a testament to respect for Africans and THEIR country and to the death of the no longer workable idea of TAKING, and to the re-birth of the old American and African idea of EXCHANGE.

If you agree, please tell the US Fish and Wildlife to not allow "Henry's" head to be imported back in to our country.