Namibia’s program has evolved into one beyond compare. You be the judge. The following are paraphrased reasons behind the positive findings and permit application issuance for the historic trophy reported above. (The parenthetical comments are Conservation Force’s.)
I. Division of Management Authority’s Enhancement Finding:
1.The black rhino population has doubled due to positive conservation efforts that trophy importation supports (2,410 in 1995 to 4,838 in 2012). In Namibia it increased from 735 in 2001 to over 1,700. The increase is above Namibia’s strategic 10-year target.
2.Namibia holds approximately 93 percent or 1,769 of the D.b. bicornis subspecies, the one permitted.
3.Lifespan is 30 to 35 years of age and this male rhino, No. 27, was over 34 years of age.
4.The rhino are “extremely aggressive,” and 50 percent of males die of combat-related injuries. Thirty percent of females die of combat-related injuries. (The handsome horned rhino taken in this hunt, as all the rhino, was badly scarred from prior battles.)
5.Aggressive males are “population limiting” and removal may lead to a population increase and greater survival.
6.CITES has established a quota limited to five per annum. (Not only because it was not detrimental, but because removal of select males could biologically increase the rate of recovery. At CoP13 the Secretariat recognized that the quota would help increase the population size by removing “surplus males” that “can no longer contribute to a viable breeding population or whose presence adversely affects the breeding performance of populations.” CoP13, Doc. 19.3.; CoP13, Res. Conf. 13.5 revised at CoP14.)
7.The CITES Secretariat supported the quota when it was challenged by Kenya at subsequent CoP14. The quota was overwhelmingly upheld by the Parties.
8.Namibia has managed to reduce poaching to minimal levels, and its black rhino population is growing at a rate that is “one of the highest in Africa,” over six percent per annum. The maximum quota of five is less than .4 percent of the total Namibian black rhino population.
9. Namibia has the successful Black Rhino Conservation Strategy for Namibia, 2003, that was revised in 2009 and has made another 2011 revision that is pending approval. (The hunting is part of a strategic plan that is working and needs to be rewarded and funded. Approval encourages proactive conservation by others.)
10.Namibia has an annual planning cycle with feedback loop, has appointed a National Rhino Coordinator and created a Rhino Management Committee.
11. Local communities directly benefit, resulting in increased community support for the presence of rhino and disincentive for poaching. (We would add that the local communities also participate as stakeholders.)
12. $175,000 of the proceeds went to the Game Products Trust Fund (GPTF) that provides for rhino conservation. (There is a page of details on expenditures.)
13. The use of funds from the sale provides revenue for protection and oversight needed. (Of course, the hunts will generate far more revenue when hunters know they can import their trophies. Witness markhor, wood bison, argali, polar bear, elephant, et al.)
14. The IUCN/SSC African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG) recommends using trophy hunting to fund management. The Group recommends the removal of a limited number of males to stimulate population growth rates because “surplus males repress breeding and cause mortality.”
15.Namibia has a certification program for designating the male rhino to be hunted. It limits males to be taken to those that are “post reproduction.” (The safari hunter had a selection of certified males in the hunting area to choose from in the hunt. Of course, “surplus” males are above capacity and management objectives.)
16.The positive “biological effects of removing individuals” include (1) reduced male fighting, (2) shorter calving intervals and (3) reduced juvenile mortality.
17. Male-biased populations can have an adverse effect on productivity, gene flow and immigration of younger males. (So reduction of older males tends to increase the population growth rate, improve the genes and makes space for males that can still reproduce.)
18. Post-reproduction males are not suitable for translocation. Upon reintroduction they become aggressive and express dominance, often killing females and calves. (Hunting is a better alternative if not the only sensible one. Why would you incur those risks of translocation for a non-producing bull that is soon to die?)
19. The individual rhino was carefully pre-selected, “certified” to be 30-35 years of age and selected to remove competition with young bulls. (It was actually more than 34 years old.)
20.Trophy import of black rhino was supported by MET, IUCN’s AfRSG, Namibia Association of Community-Based Natural Resource Management Support Organizations and World Wildlife Fund. (The DMA does not necessarily cite them all, but Conservation Force, DSC, HSC, IPHA, African Safari Club of Florida, Wild Sheep Foundation, Grand Slam/OVIS, SCI, TWS and others also commented in favor of granting the permit.)
21.There were no negative comments received by USFWS after publication of the import permit application in the Federal Register.
22.The program conforms with IUCN’s SSC Guiding Principles on Trophy Hunting as a Tool for Creating Conservation Incentives, IUCN SSC 2012, which specifically references the Namibia program. (Namibia has the foremost communal conservancy programs in the world.)
23. The DMA’s concluding enhancement summary states that (1) the success of the Black Rhino Conservation Strategy for Namibia, (2) the use of the funds, (3) the “biological need for such harvests,” (4) the “strict, scientifically-based selection process” all justify the positive enhancement finding.
II. Non-Detriment Advice of the Division of Scientific Authority:
The non-detriment advice of DSA had basically the same findings, but it was rendered in February 2010, more than three years before the DMA acted on the application. Some highlights include:
1. A quota of one percent is considered to be biologically sustainable, but the more limiting CITES quota of five rhino is less than .4 percent. (The quota is not only low; the population is growing far above the offtake of undesirable bulls.)
2.No illegally-killed rhino were detected between 2006-2009, the year the rhino was taken. (The hunting and revenue should further reduce the risk of poaching.)
3.Namibia’s plans are coordinated through one or more committees of the African Rhino Specialist Group of IUCN/SSC. It is also a member of the SADC Rhino Management Group for Southern Africa.
III. The Intra-Service Section 7 Biological Evaluation made by the Division of Management Authority in concurrence with the Division of Scientific Authority:
The jeopardy determination contained the same factual and biological background but included the following:
1.The population is continuing to increase.
2.Harvest is limited to five “post-reproduction” animals annually.
3.The issuance of permits for the import “will provide funds to support conservation programs for the species, including rhino surveys, rhino crime investigation and insuring the traceability of all rhino horn in Namibia.” (These are essential management costs that have to be borne. In this case, the revenue from the select, limited hunting serves as an extraordinary user-pay system.)
Few hunters will ever experience a black rhino hunt first-hand, but no game animal is better positioned to generate so very much revenue for its own benefit. That is what this is really about at this point in time. No tool is better than hunting to be part of and complement the conservation strategy. This particular hunt sold for $225,000 with $175,000 paid into the special wildlife conservation fund, Game Products Trust Fund. This is already the most expensive game animal in the world to hunt. The importability of the trophy can only further increase the price beyond compare. There is hope to do more than secure the rhino. There is hope that its numbers will keep climbing so that our children and grandchildren can know the rhino.