Under the heading “CIC PRAISES AUCTIONED BLACK RHINO HUNT AS A GREAT SUPPORT TO RHINO CONSERVATION IN NAMIBIA” the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation CIC published a press release on June 1, 2015. The press release culminated in CIC President Bernard Lozé stating that “the funds raised at the auction and Corey Knowlton’s hunt are a great push for the conservation of black rhino in Namibia, which are under increasing pressure from poachers. They are also recognition for the local communities who are looking after the rhinos as much as they can”. The CIC applauds Dallas Safari Club and the Namibian Government for jointly creating this opportunity to show support of conservation in Namibia as well as contribute to the science-based population management. Dallas Safari Club deservedly was very recently confirmed as one of the newest members of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). CIC as a long-standing IUCN member, with several CIC members working in various IUCN Specialist Groups, congratulates DSC for this achievement.
African Indaba: Corey, last month you finally hunted and harvested the black rhino bull in Namibia. It must have been an emotional roller coaster for you and your family for a long period – ever since Dallas Safari Club and the Namibian authorities conceived the idea and put the hunt up for auction at the 2014 DSC convention. You probably decided on your bidding the moment the information was made public. We all know that your family and you faced insults, threats and defamation from those opposed to all hunting, when you proudly and publicly stood up to your decision. More than a year passed and you finally hunted the old bull. Can you tell our readers what made enter the bidding in the first place?
Corey Knowlton: John Jackson (Conservation Force) asked me to bid at the DSC convention, before that I really wasn’t committed to bid on this hunt. He proceeded to inform me that the anti-hunting community with their campaign of misinformation and hate had for all intents and purposes chased out a number of bidders that he was counting on to bid on the Rhino Hunt. So in short, I bid on the hunt as a favor to a friend who has fought like hell to keep wildlife and wild places protected from all sorts of threats.
African Indaba: In this issue we publish an edited report by the Washington Post on your hunt. CNN also interviewed you and you decided to have the video of the hunt made public. Hunting is normally a very individual affair – very private and away from the eye of public – let us know your reasons.
Corey Knowlton: I wanted the story to be told from the side of the people involved in the conservation effort and not the people who were trying to keep it from happening. I have had a lot of experience filming hunts as a Host of The Professionals and Uncharted along with Jim Shockey for five years. Much of my recent hunting experiences have been in the public eye so filming a hunt was not that daunting of a prospect for me.
African Indaba: Are the media reports accurate?
Corey Knowlton: That depends on which media reports you read or watch. The most accurate reporting that has been done thus far was done by Ed Lavandera and Jason Morris of CNN. They were on the hunt and had first-hand experience to use as a basis for their reporting. I believe that their reporting was very thorough and very accurate. (Editor’s note: see http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/19/africa/namibia-rhino-hunt/)
African Indaba: What was the feedback from your fellow hunters?
Corey Knowlton: Most were in favor. I believe that hunters by and large have a closer relationship with wildlife and a better handle on wildlife management than non-hunters so regardless if a given hunter would have personally took part in this hunt or not most of them understood the conservation benefits of this type of hunt.
African Indaba: Give us some intimate insights in your feelings when you started tracking the bull
Corey Knowlton: It was a very intense hunt and the pressure was very high. We wanted to make sure we took the correct animal and we knew what was at stake. Any time you hunt a dangerous animal your awareness needs to be almost uncanny to ensure the safety of the hunting party. Hentie Van Heerden, the PH was great and without his professionalism it would have been a different experience all together. Overall I was pretty stressed throughout the hunt because of the implications if the hunt did not go perfectly.
African Indaba: … when you faced him in the sights of your rifle?
Corey Knowlton: I saw the rhino for less than three seconds. It charged Ed Lavandera, he ran towards me and the rhino followed. I shot twice with the .500 hitting it both times; Hentie shot twice hitting it once. We followed the blood trail and then found the rhino again and I shot again killing the rhino. It was a very emotional moment to say the least.
African Indaba: … and when you finally stood in front of the dead bull?
Corey Knowlton: I was thrilled that this whole ordeal had ended with the correct rhino being taken, Namibia receiving the contribution, the locals getting the meat. Overall I was very proud of what this hunt meant for the survival of the Black Rhino and the awareness it brought to the challenges that African Wildlife have to overcome.
African Indaba: The US Fish & Wildlife Authority gave green light to import the black rhino trophy into the United States. Conservation Force chairman and CIC member John J Jackson III fought long and hard to win this important victory for the sustainable use of wildlife. Do you have a message for your fellow hunters around the world?
Corey Knowlton: Keep fighting the good fight for what you know is right. Don’t let the hate and misinformation campaigns brought against us keep you from doing your part for conservation and wildlife management.
African Indaba: Corey, thank you very much for taking the time for this interview.
Post script: Corey Knowlton recommends all readers to access what constitutes in his opinion the most thorough report on this hunt – please go to http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/19/africa/namibia-rhino-hunt/ for access. We also recommend our readers to also access Rhino trophy imports into the US: perspectives from the US and the impact on communities in Namibia, by IUCN SULi members John J Jackson III and Brian Jones Black rhino hunt: Why killing one bull is worth it for conservation by Dr Mike Knight, Chairman IUCN Species Survival Commission’s African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG) and the South African Development Community Rhino Management Group (SADC RMG) and Dr Richard Emslie, AfRSG Scientific Officer and also a SADC RMG member as well as the articles of Ivo Vegter, author of Extreme Environment: How environmental exaggeration harms emerging economies and columnist for the Daily Maverick (South Africa): Half-measures will fail the rhino, Cherry-picking ‘grey literature’ on rhino horn, Rhino horn: The proposal that could save the species and in particular Ivo Vegter naming 350,000 reasons to kill a black rhino. By the way – Ivo does not hunt!
For more information about the world’s rhinos access Rhino Resource Center for all literature from the oldest to the most recent. Read full texts on the biology, history, captivity, husbandry, management and conservation of fossil and the six existing species of rhinoceros. Read both regular and grey literature. You can find current publications and reports from IUCN-SSC African Rhino Specialist Group, IUCN-SSC Asian Rhino Specialist Group, SADC Regional Program for Rhino Conservation, Husbandry manuals for the rhinoceros, International Rhino Keeper Association, Dissertations and theses, Rhino Vision 2020
The interview was conducted by African Indaba publisher & editor and CIC Applied Science Division president Gerhard R. Damm.