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Rhino Coming to U.S.

In name of conservation, FWS allows hunter to import rhino trophy

There are about 5,000 African black rhinos in the wild. (Wikipedia) There are about 5,000 African black rhinos in the wild. (Wikipedia)

By: Steve Rogers, OutdoorChannel.com

While he finds himself at the center of an international controversy over the trophy hunting of endangered species and what role it can play in conservation efforts, David K. Reinke says he is simply committed to saving the African black rhinoceros.

Reinke, 52, the president and CEO of a printer parts wholesale company in Madison, Wis., has been granted a permit by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to bring a slain black rhino back to the U.S., the first time American officials have allowed a black rhino hunting trophy to be imported since the species was first listed as endangered in 1980.

“This is a scientific issue,” Reinke told the Wisconsin State Journal. “Don’t forget, the important thing here is to save the rhino.”

The U.S. government does not allow endangered species to be imported – dead or alive – except for scientific purposes or if it enhances the species’ survival. The USFWS granted Reinke’s permit “in recognition of the role that well-managed, limited sport hunting plays.”

“The Service would look at the overall management program for a species in each country,” the USFWS said in a release concerning the importation of other endangered species by sport-hunting. “Factors considered include: the biological needs of the species, possible threats to the populations, current population estimates, quotas, management plans, legal protection, local community involvement and use of hunting fees for conservation.”

The USFWS also said it has also received an application for the import of another black rhino that is scheduled to be taken in South Africa this year. 

Reinke killed the rhino in Namibia, located in southwest Africa, in 2009 with the blessing of that country’s government, which allows five male black rhinos that are too old to reproduce to be shot each year.

“My desire is to help save the rhino through a scientific method approved by the United States and other agencies," Reinke told The Associated Press. "It's all about conservation."

Reinke killed the rhino, a 34-year-old sterile male, with a .375 H&H Magnum rifle. The black rhino typically lives 30-35 years, can grow to 12 feet long and weighs 1,800-3,000 pounds.

In a release, the USFWS said the removal of limited number of male rhinos can help the overall growth of the species in some areas “by reducing fighting injuries and deaths among males, decreasing juvenile mortality and shortening calving intervals.” In the case of Reinke’s rhino, it was too elderly to reproduce but could still be strong enough to crowd out fertile rivals.

All black rhinos in Namibia are fitted with ear tags so officials can identify them and select which ones are appropriate for hunting. Reinke’s target was bull No. 27, which Namibian officials had monitored since 1981 when it was brought to the Waterberg Plateau National Park in the north central part of the country, about 70 kilometers east of Otjiwarongo.

Black rhinos are categorized as a critically endangered species, with about 5,000 remaining.

The Fish and Wildlife Service also said Reinke contributed $175,000 into Namibia’s Game Products Trust Fund, which helps to fund conservation and management efforts. The Service also described Namibia as a leader in rhino conservation efforts.

The decision to allow Reinke’s trophy to be brought into the U.S. has enraged some animal rights and animal advocacy organizations. The Humane Society of the United States said the move sets a dangerous precedent, one that will push black rhinos closer to the brink of extinction and encourage hunters to shoot these and other endangered animals.

“It’s only a selfish and self-interested person who shoots one of the biggest, rarest and most remarkable animals in the world for bragging rights, pushing that species one step closer to extinction,” Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, told the Wisconsin State Journal.

Pacelle also said it was discouraging that wealthy individuals are killing rare animals and justifying it in the name of preservation.

“I think we should disassociate the notion of giving money to help the rhino, from the act of killing them,” he told The Associated Press.

World Wildlife Fund, a leading wildlife conservation group, said it supported the U.S. government’s decision to allow Reinke to import his rhino.

“When rhinos, or other species, are harvested from communal conservancies in Namibia, a portion of the revenue goes to the conservancy from which the animal originated,” Matt Lewis, WWF African species expert, said in a statement. “This lucrative financial return conveys the value of rhinos to the community, thereby providing incentives for effective wildlife management, anti-poaching efforts and for greater resources to be allocated toward these goals.

“It is rarely the preferred option. But we do have to work within the realities and challenges of conservation on the ground.”

Reinke said he was making sure the black rhino was being entirely used. He said he left the meat for local church groups and community leaders in Namibia, and the skin, skull and horn were coming back to the U.S. to be mounted.

He said he planned to enjoy the specimen for several years before eventually donating it to a museum. The Endangered Species Act would bar him from legally selling the rhino.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s explanation for granting the permit can be found at http://1.usa.gov/101q4s9

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