The club is staging the auction in January, after which the winning bidder will be flown to Namibia to shoot a rare black rhino. They will then be permitted to export the trophy back to their home in the United States.
The Dallas Observer quoted the club's executive director, Ben Carter: "The whole model of wildlife conservation, of sustainable-use conservation, is that any resource, if it has a value, will stay there and will continue to flourish." Alternatives – like auctioning a safari or photo opportunity with a black rhino – would not work because people would not pay as much as was needed for conservation, he said.
The club says it has been a "gathering place for hunters since 1972". Through a wide range of initiatives the club claims it is ensuring that "future generations will enjoy watching and hunting wildlife tomorrow".
While the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) has put a ban on trade of rhino horn, it does allow certain countries a quota of trophy-hunting permits. This permit was granted by the Namibian government as the rhino population in the Mangetti National Park was high, and the money generated will go to help conservation efforts.
The concept is the end game of the current proposals by the department of environmental affairs to have a once-off sale of rhino horn. In that instance, the horn comes from animals that have died from natural causes.
The larger private rhino owners are proposing to rear animals for their horns, although this measure has not been taken up by the government. But the thinking is the same in all of these initiatives – the rhino has to work to save its own species.
Namibia is often cited as a model for the rest of the continent. After heavy poaching during the Border War it gained independence and tackled poaching by involving communities in conservation. This makes it harder for poachers to move through to parks and get away. Communities then have a stake in keeping animal species alive because they benefit from tourism and a working ecology.
This approach has been gaining traction in South Africa, but the country is unable to do anything about people on the Mozambique side who benefit from the huge sums of money available to those who help poachers – a water carrier can earn more than R10 000 for one mission. This has led to a more militant fight against poachers, with a low-level war being fought in parks across the country.
Last year 668 rhino were killed, a number that was passed with 100 days left in the year. At this rate over 1 000 rhino will be killed this year.