By Philip Caulfield
A Texas hunting club's plan to auction off a chance to shoot an endangered black rhino in Africa is leading to death threats against its members.
The Dallas Safari Club plans to auction off a permit to hunt the endangered beast in Namibia, in southwest Africa, at their annual convention on Saturday, NBC Dallas Fort Worth reported.
Government honchos in Namibia have signed off on the hunt, and all the proceeds from the auction were slated to help the country ward off rhino poachers and other conservation efforts.
Ben Carter, the club's director, said the sought-after permit could fetch up to $1 million, the station reported.
But, the club said, angry animal welfare groups have vowed to stage their own hunt — against club members and the winding bidder.
"I've had death threats on my family," Carter told the station. "We've had a number of death threats to our members and (threats about) what would happen if we sell the permit."
One threat said, "If this happens, Ben's kids are dead," the club said in a statement on its website.
Another slammed club members as "subhuman rednecks" and said it was "open season" on them and their families.
"The winner of this hunt will find himself in the crosshairs," another read.
The FBI was looking into the threats, and extra security was planned for the club's three-day event, which was expected to draw around 45,000 people, NBC Dallas-Fort Worth reported.
According to the club, this is the first time rhino hunting permits have been sold outside of Namibia.
Inside the country, the permits never sold for more than $223,000, the club said. They expected to fetch at least $250,000 for theirs.
According to the auction's rules, the winning hunter, will get the chance to kill one, non-breeding older male black rhino.
The species has been on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services' endangered species list since 1980.
There are currently 5,055 remaining Africa, according to estimates by the International Rhino Foundation.
The club said older bulls are often a threat to the rhino population because they can be aggressive, territorial and were known to kill younger males.
"First and foremost, this is about saving the black rhino," Carter said in a statement. "There is a biological reason for this hunt, and it's based on a fundamental premise of modern wildlife management: populations matter; individuals don't.
"By removing counterproductive individuals from a herd, rhino populations can actually grow," he said.
Namibian wildlife officials will oversee the hunt.
The club's critics argued rhino conservationists should focus on sustaining the animal's habitat, not culling the herd.
"We've had a standard for more than 40 years that you don't shoot an animal that's endangered," Humane Society president Wayne Pacelle told NBC Fort Worth. More....