Corey Knowlton, the hunter who has been identified as the winner of a controversial auction held by the Dallas Safari Club to hunt an endangered black rhino, has issued a statement calling for a discussion on conservation.
The Safari Club's auction on January 11 was attended by high-roller hunters who bid on the opportunity to shoot a mature male black rhino. Though predicted to net up to $1 million, the highest bid, reportedly made by Knowlton, was $350,000. The event was framed as a fundraiser, the proceeds from which would be earmarked for preservation of the species.
The auction has launched an international debate about whether allowing a hunter to kill a defenseless rhino is a logical way to preserve the species. The Safari Club defended the auction, declaring that "selective hunting helps rhino populations grow" and that "removing old, post-breeding bulls, which are territorial, aggressive and often kill younger, breeding bulls, cows and even calves, increases survival and productivity in a herd."
Since Knowlton's name first became public, he's been deluged by thousands of messages from both sides: protests from animal advocates and support from hunters. But his statement seems aimed at those offering criticism:
Thank you all for your comments about conservation and the current situation regarding the Black Rhino. I am considering all sides and concerns involved in this unique situation. Please don't rush to judgment with emotionally driven criticism towards individuals on either sides of this issue. I deeply care about all of the inhabitants of this planet and I am looking forward to more educated discussion regarding the ongoing conservation effort for the Black Rhino.
Knowlton is a consultant for a hunting outfit called Hunting Consortium Ltd. and has appeared on hunting TV shows such Jim Shockey's The Professionals. But his role as top bidder in such a high-profile high-dollar auction seems surprising. In addition to a hunting-guide company called Global Hunting Resources, his other business ventures in prior years have included septic and concrete companies.