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    Posted January 31, 2014 by

    Smoke and Mirrors - the real story behind Corey Knowlton's Black rhino hunt

    “This is NOT a specific bull they have in mind; the story of the old grumpy killer bull is just a sales strategy. They will target the most CONVENIENT bull that fits the PROFILE.
    - This has been confirmed by Corey Knowlton in a discussion between us on 27 January.”
    Currently, the public, anti and pro on the hunting debate, seem to have very little information to make educated decisions on in this on-going debate, so I will attempt to clarify a few things here.
    What has been very strange is the deafening silence from conservation groups inside Namibia itself to come to the fore regarding this.
    At the onset of this debate, some people at first attacked Save The Rhino Trust (SRT) Namibia http://savetherhinotrust.org/ as it was very erroneously thought that they would be the recipients of the money raised in this auction.

    I quote the key of their response to this:
    "We do not directly receive money from hunting, we have nothing to do with hunting, and we have not at all been approached in this regard either, so to say that we will be receiving money from a rhino hunt is entirely inaccurate. We are not responsible for hunting and we are not associated with hunting. Our job at Save the Rhino Trust is to save rhino and that is exactly what we do every waking hour of our lives."
    So let’s first put some numbers into perspective.
    The hunter thinks he is bidding for one out of about 5000+ black rhino in the wild. This is not true. Black Rhinos are subdivided into distinct subspecies, that conservationist try very hard not to interbreed.

    - Eastern (D.b.michaeli) around 799 left, mostly under armed guard and not hunted.

    - South Central (D.b.minor) around 2 000 left mostly in South Africa. Currently under heavy threat from this recent wave of poaching that claimed over 1000 rhino lives in 2013 (black and white) CITES approved limited trophy hunting as well.

    - South Western (D.b.bicornis) numbers from various sources differ, and is secret for security reasons. Between 1750 and 1900? Poaching still minimal so far, only one free-range animal lost last year, but we expect the rate to massively increase this year.

    Now we are getting closer to reality. Of these say 1750 individuals, around 1000 lives inside of protected National Parks and selected private sanctuaries, where they are hopefully more safe and can promote better manage breeding.
    So this leaves us with around 750 animal that is the last of the free ranging black rhinos in Africa, roaming wild in a mostly wilderness desert area of
    25 000sqkm. About the size of Belgium. It is one of these lone desert bulls that will be hunted by Corey Knowlton.

    These bulls cover huge territorial home-ranges, and are loners. With female ranges overlapping those of various bulls for optimal breeding opportunities. When a young bull gets to breeding age he will be pushed out to establish his own territory, as old bulls fiercely defend theirs. Fighting in the wild does occur, but as they are not fenced in, and there is ample room for expansion, it is very seldom to the death, like sometimes happen in fenced parks. In the wild it is counterproductive to kill each other; it is merely a question of domination.

    And never in the wild would a rhino aggressively target other species besides predators, including man if they feel threatened. As with other species, each rhino "personality" differs. Some are grumpy as youngsters, and stay that way as old adults. And, there is very little known about the age a rhino bull actually stop breeding. To actually dart an old bull to test his sperm is just not feasible in free ranging populations

    The fact of the matter is that this small free-range population is far from back into all their original Home-ranges from the pre 80's poaching that nearly wiped them out.
    Only radical intervention from the SRT and MET saved them from total annihilation.
    This means their current number of 750 is still not close to having the desert population back to the numbers there should be, and actually each one should be under armed guard in the current poaching crisis!

    So why hunt this, or any desert bull? (And knowing how the system works, I can assure you, it will be a very random bull likely to be shot! This is NOT a specific bull they have in mind; the story of the old grumpy killer bull is just a sales strategy. They will target the most CONVENIENT bull that fits the PROFILE.)
    - This has been confirmed by Corey Knowlton in a discussion between us on 27 January 2014.

    The sad fact for the rhino bull, black or white, is just this: NOBODY WANTS A BULL. Just like with cattle, you need cows and one good breeding bull if you want to breed more animals quicker. So the desert bulls have become conveniently expendable in the bigger conservation scheme that has worked so successfully in South Africa and Namibia.
    So the Hunter had been cheated by smoke and mirrors by turning this story into an elaborate con of a "once of opportunity" not to be missed. The sad reality is that if you take the HORN value out of the equation this bulls open market value is close to US$ 50 000.

    So the breeders and parks don't need bulls, the only place where they are desperately needed is in areas where you don't necessarily only need numbers to increase, but also expansion of territory. Where you need to fill the voids created by poacher guns with lone bulls ranging out and settling in new areas where their ancestors roamed. And where the bulls go, the females eventually follow. And the last area on this planet left for that to happen is the vast wilderness area of the North West Namib desert.

    So let’s look through the smoke and mirrors:

    - YES, it makes for good conservation and faster breeding of a critically endangered rhino to allow some hunting of older bulls in a MANAGED and fenced breeding area.

    - NO, it does not make the slightest sense to hunt such a bull in a free-range area where the populations is still slowly clawing their way back from near extinction, and has only filled less than 25% of their pre 80's range.

    There are numerous private reserves and sanctuaries that currently have no rhinos that would happily cover the cost of darting and relocating a free-range bull to retire gracefully, or start the nucleus for a new breeding population. One of these is the renowned conservation lodge called Okonjima http://www.okonjima.com/ that has an area of 22 000ha set aside and fenced in with rhino proof fencing already.

    So once again, we extend out Invitation to Mr Corey Knowlton to keep his Trophy of one desert dwelling rhino bull alive. To help us create a trophy he can revisit year after year, and maybe even one day show his own children the offspring his trophy could still provide.
    And be proud...


    Anton Louw
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