01/18/2014 07:18 pm ET Updated Mar 20, 2014

Real Conservation or Just Rhino Slaughter for Sport?


Corey Knowlton prides himself on being a prolific hunter -- but, for the first time, he is the one under the gun.

The Dallas-based Knowlton flooded this week's headlines for bidding $350,000 at auction for the chance to shoot an endangered black rhinoceros in Namibia. Knowlton justifies the hunt in the name of 'conservation,' as his money will allegedly be spent to save other Namibian wildlife. However, his insensitivity and flawed logic, shared by the hunting clubs that give him cover, have earned him disdain from every circle.

Fewer than 5,000 black rhinos remain in the wild. They need our urgent aid: not a hunter's bullet. This is not real conservation; this is rhino slaughter for sport.

Knowlton continues to display his willful ignorance all over national media, twisting the facts to rationalize his hunt. In a desperate move to save his reputation, Knowlton has attempted to position himself as a well-intentioned proponent of conservation and, unbelievably, as this story's true victim. He laments the audacity of those who would criticize his bloodlust. To be clear, he has received some seriously aggressive threats -- and that's not the kind of compassion I advocate. But that does not change a thing about the denial he is in concerning the mythical benefits of the hunt.

Born Free USA is appalled by Knowlton's brazen attitude, and even more bewildered by his guise of 'conservation.'

As my colleague Adam Roberts, Executive Vice President of Born Free USA said today:

A conservation plan cannot include the willful killing of a member of an endangered species. Real conservation involves securing protected areas, mobilizing wildlife law enforcement, and stopping illicit trade -- which can be achieved without resorting to sensationalized carnage. If Knowlton has $350,000 to spend on conservation, then he should spend it on true conservation. It's purely unnecessary, and simply counterproductive, to hunt an endangered animal in the process. For a species as imperiled as the rhino, every animal's life is significant.

The only silver lining in this perverse story is that Knowlton's hunt has garnered massive publicity. Just this week, public awareness of rhino hunting has exploded -- and the overwhelming response seems to be vehement disapproval. In the brief moment that this story exists in the fleeting public consciousness, the global conservation community must seize the opportunity to educate the public about the rhino's serious plight.

Hunting rhinos at a time when the world is lamenting their demise, when our children may see a day where no wild rhinos exist, is absurd. Mr. Knowlton: feel free to donate $350,000 to Born Free USA -- we'll show you how to use that money for real conservation.