Black Rhino Challenges
by Gerhard R Damm
The black rhino was once a fairly common species for trophy hunters (in the mid-fifties, a general license in Kenya incl. 1 rhino, 2 elephant, 1 lion and leopard each, and a selection of plains game cost about $1120); it was even routinely shot by game control officers. The onslaught of a terrible poaching endemic in East Africa reduced the numbers so drastically that only the immense experience and dedication of Namibian and South African wildlife authorities saved it from the brink of extinction.
The total number of living black rhinos today is higher than those of the white rhino, when white rhino hunting was re-started. And the white rhino has made a spectacular recovery through “incentive based conservation” – a feat, which can be repeated with its “black” cousin, now after CITES delegates authorized Namibia and South Africa to select 10 male black rhinos for trophy hunting each year. The quotas will become effective in 90 days.
Black rhino hunting in the 21st century will, however, be a very different affair from the rhino hunts during the golden days of African hunting safaris. It will be highly regulated and the animal to be hunted will have been pre-selected by Nature Conservation officials on the basis of parameters like breeding redundancy, aggressiveness against other rhinos, age, etc. The prospective hunter will hunt a particular animal – usually in a finite area demarcated by fences. And these hunts will attract a lot of attention from hunters and non-hunters alike.
With something that exceptional as these rhino hunts, we have an extraordinary opportunity to show to the world that it is thanks to hunters’ money that black rhinos will soon be as abundant as the white rhino. I suggest therefore that future black rhino hunts should not be marketed as a catch-as-much-profit-as-possible operation by individual outfitters, professional hunters and/or agents making deals with individual rhino owners.
We rather have to look for innovative ways to ensure that the highest possible economic value is attached to these ten rhino bulls and that the lion’s share of the money goes back into conservation of black rhino habitat, reintroduction of black rhino in former ranges, research and management of black rhino as well as into benefit sharing with local communities (i. e. as a motivation to guard rhinos). We should include also – in the instance of South Africa – that private owners must see a powerful economic incentive in reserving land for black rhinos.
Instead of leaving the scarce rhino permits for the relative few who will be able to afford the high price tag attached, we should rather think of spreading the chances and at the same time realize an even higher economic result per hunted animal. A series of worldwide raffles (say 500 tickets per bull at $500 or $1000 a ticket could do the trick!) will raise substantial amounts! In order to attract the highest numbers of potential raffle ticket buyer, funds need to be channelled through a suitable organization (like Conservation Force) for tax deductibility and minimal administrative deductions. This “Operation Black Rhino” cannot be the exclusivity of one club or association; it needs to be carried by a coalition of hunters’ organizations, hunting media, etc worldwide to guaran- tee maximum exposure and marketing possibilities (see also my respective thoughts in the editorial column).
Apart from the desire to create the highest economical impact, strict guidelines for black rhino hunting must be defined. Again, this should not be the domain of one organization, but of a coalition. NAPHA and PHASA could cooperate with the national regulatory authorities under the Conservation Force umbrella to define binding guidelines i. e. minimum number of days for a safari, the restricted and exactly defined use of vehicles during the safari, the qualifications of the outfitter and professional hunter, etc.
Conservation Force should also take the lead with the import permitting for US hunters. John Jackson has repeatedly shown that he has the necessary expertise and dedication.