By John R. Platt
For the first time in more than 30 years an American hunter has been allowed to import a trophy from a black rhino he shot in Africa back into the country. Animal-rights groups argue that this is a precedent-setting setback for efforts to preserve the endangered species. Hunters, on the other hand, argue that this is actually a victory for conservation.
Black rhinos have been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1980. As such, the import of any rhino body parts is prohibited without a permit. All rhino species and subspecies face rampant poaching for their horns, which are valued for their supposed medicinal qualities (none of which are real).
David K. Reinke, president and CEO of a laserjet printer parts wholesaler called Liberty Parts Team and a big donor to Republican political candidates, shot his black rhino in Namibia back in 2009. According to a 2010 report from Businessweek, he paid a total of $215,000 for the hunt. This appears to include a $175,000 contribution to the Namibian government’s Game Products Trust Fund, which helps to support wildlife conservation and management efforts. An organization called Conservation Force, headed by lawyer John Jackson, spent the past four years arguing that Reinke should be allowed to import the trophy from his hunt back into the U.S. Conservation Force holds the position that “that hunters and anglers are an indispensable and essential force for wildlife conservation,” and has also argued for the right to import hunting trophies from polar bears, Canadian wood bison and straight-horned markhor, among other endangered species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) granted that license in March.
The FWS issued the following statement about the decision, which I think is worth reproducing in full, as it does not appear to be posted on their Web site: More....