Corey Knowlton faced public backlash earlier this month following a Dallas Safari Club fundraiser auction where he paid $350,000 for a license to hunt African black rhino, an endangered species. CNN reported on Friday that, after receiving multiple death threats from animal lovers, the Texas hunter and his family went into hiding in a Nevada hotel room under 24-hour guard.
“I have people threatening my kids,” Knowlton said. “I’m having to talk to the FBI and have private security to keep my children from being skinned alive and shot at.”
The safari club says it hosted the auction to raise money toward conservation efforts to protect the species. There were some 70,000 black rhino living in the wild in the 1960s, but today the population is down to an estimated 4,000. Each year the government of Namibia in southern Africa offers only five permits to hunt the animal, and the license Knowlton purchased is the first to be offered internationally.
With these permits the Namibian government allows limited hunting of older rhinos that are no longer capable of breeding. The males especially are considered dangerous and often injure or kill younger rhinos. Knowlton’s supporters say that hunting this sort of animal makes sound conservation sense.
His critics, however, say the auction sends a negative public message. Among Knowlton’s more respectful opponents is Jeffrey Flocken, a regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. “This is, in fact, making a spectacle of killing an endangered species,” Flocken told the Independent last week.
But the outcry on Facebook and elsewhere has been much less civil and, at times, downright scary. One posting quoted on Newsmax says, “I have friends who live in the area and will have you in [their] sights also.” Others specifically threaten to kill Knowlton and members of his family, which is entirely uncalled for. Petersen’s HUNTING Editor Ben O’Brien weighs in on why the antis are wrong about Corey Knowlton.
The situation is understandably emotional for Knowlton, but his public statements have been admirably level-headed. Before the threats became so deadly, he emphasized a need for “educated discussion” about conservation efforts for the black rhino. Even now he reiterates the intimacy a hunter feels for wildlife and their world.
“I respect the black rhino,” Knowlton told CNN. “We are preserving wildlife resources, not for the next generation, but for eons.”
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