Kenyan ranger’s moving letter to American rhino hunter

Information provided by: Walk With Rangers

A Kenyan grassroots initiative, Walk With Rangers, has spoken out against the controversial rhino auction held by the Dallas Safari Club that saw the highest bidder, Mr. Corey Knowlton, cough up a staggering US$350 000 to hunt an endangered black rhino in Namibia.

walk-with-rangers

“The sum is pittance compared to the value of our wildlife,” says Raabia Hawa, an honorary game warden with the Kenya Wildlife Service and founder of the Walk With Rangers initiative.

Ms. Hawa has published an open letter to Mr. Knowlton, expressing sadness at the threats he has received in heated debates on online forums. The open letter also addresses the conservation values of old rhinos which Mr. Knowlton contradicts in referring to the rhino as ‘too old to breed’ and deeming it valueless. Her views on this have been backed by world- reknowned wildlife biologist and documentary host, Ian Redmond.

Other conservationists speaking out through the initiative are Kuki Gallman, who has cited her personal 40 years of experience working with wild rhinos in Africa.

The initiative will be presenting a petition to Mr. Knowlton and the Dallas Safari Club signed by rangers and conservationists from the field in the coming few weeks, saying they are frustrated that the voices of those who really are saving species to the point of risking their lives, are too often ignored.

The open letter is available to read below. Walk With Rangers is an initiative that will launch in June 2014 aimed at raising awareness and funds to further enhance anti-poaching operations on the ground. The initiative is in collaboration with the Kenya Wildlife Service and its Tanzanian counterpart.

From a wildlife warden to a trophy hunter.

Dear Mr. Corey Knowlton,

I hope this letter finds you and your family well in light of recent developments surrounding the Namibian black rhino hunt auction.

Mr. Knowlton, I had only just returned from anti-poaching patrols when I opened up Facebook and saw the flurry of posts and comments mentioning your name. I did not comment until a few days later (please see your page inbox) as I felt I really needed to understand this situation better.

I have watched several of your interviews and would like to start by apologizing for what your family must be enduring, I know how important family is and you must feel terribly threatened. Please do convey my apologies to your wife, and your children on behalf of myself and the scouts I just spent two weeks with fighting poachers and illegal loggers.

Sir, please know that we are protectors of life, not just because we are rangers and scouts, but because we are human. We must only take that which is sustainable and in a way that will not bring harm to the delicate balance of nature. This is our way, the way of true Africa.

Sir, I have struggled to understand why SCI and DSC continue to put prices on the heads of our wildlife. It is laughable that they even think they have any right. The wildlife of a nation remains the sovereign property of its people. Would this not mean then, sir, that privatizing such public property would, in fact, be a gross violation of the rights of the African people? I will let you ponder over that for a while.

We are in the wake of a crisis that has gripped our region. Poachers have decimated our herds, and Africa is no longer teeming with wildlife. You kind sir, have been duped into believing that your hunt will aid conservation in Africa.

It will not. Aside from gaining Namibia huge disrepute, it will go against the very fiber of what we are trying so hard to achieve – the protection and true management of our last wild things. It is also imperative to note here that local African communities do not eat rhino meat. Please ask Mr. Carter of DSC to stop shaming our people and insulting your intelligence.

Initially when questioned on the hunt, the response resonated ‘support for conservation and anti-poaching’ with specific focus angling towards ‘better training and equipping rangers.’ Mr. Knowlton, let me assure you that this is most discourteous and rather insulting. Is this what SCI and DSC have reduced the value of our wildlife to? A few boots and uniforms?

Please sir, I plead with you to understand what we are facing. Exactly a year and some days ago now, my colleague and good friend was shot by poachers. He stood right in between a rhino they were targeting. He took the bullet for the rhino. He didn’t ask it’s age, he didn’t ask if it was a breeding bull, he didn’t ask if it was male or female, white or black. He just saw poachers, and a rhino, and did what he knew he had to do. THAT, kind sir, is true conservation, management and protection that will ensure the survival of our precious rhino species.

By now you must think I’m just ‘another one of those bunny hugging antis’ and I am fully cognizant that you are probably not seeing any ‘conservation value’ in my words. So I will share with you the following;

“In forty years of close association with black rhinoceros, I have NEVER known of a free ranging wild old male past his breeding period targeting, and killing, rhino females and calves but, rather, the odd fights have only, in my own experience, occurred amongst breeding competing males, as is common in other species.

In Africa old age is respected: by extension, it is un-African and basically unethical not to allow an old male that sired many calves a peaceful retirement, in the same way as breeding bulls in the cattle world are put out to pasture, not sent to the butcher, once they stop being productive. It is equally unethical to use two sets of measures for poachers, who shoot a wild animal for financial gain, and are arrested or shot, and for a wealthy legal hunter who can pay a fortune for the pleasure to kill it, and is congratulated instead? In both cases a dead endangered animal is the end product. This auction is cruel, ill-timed, and to be condemned.

If the person bidding to shoot the rhino bull has that spare cash available, why not DONATE it to the cause and leave the poor rhino alone? The old rhino does not deserve a bullet.

- Kuki Gallmann; Conservationist, author, founder of The Gallmann Memorial Foundation and honorary game warden.”

Sir, we on the field do not understand the logic in this matter. For us, every single one is absolutely critical to the survival of the species, to the sustainable development of the ecosystem they are a part of, and most of all, to the well being and protection of our culture and heritage.

You seem to be a pragmatic man, which is why I’m writing to you. I note your concerns for your family and hope you see our concerns as conservationists and protectors of those we love as our own, the wildlife our friends have fallen trying to protect (I’m also quite sure my colleague would have taken the bullet if you were on the other end of the gun instead of a poacher).

Hunting never has been, and probably never will be, in the true interest of the African people or nations. I appeal to you to spend some time with us to see this for yourself. It is not conservation, and the government officials that continue to allow such ‘fun hunts’ on endangered and critical species, must be ashamed. Indeed they know our great herds are gone, and the more this continues, the more we will fall into the abyss of misery and I’m sure, kind sir, that you do not wish such a ferociously merciless fate for us.

Mr. Knowlton, as I write this I am reading the news from neighboring Tanzania. Poachers have killed one black rhino, and now there are just 35 remaining. Do you think perhaps that DSC would be willing to use the us$350 000 you gave them in good conservation faith, to do a translocation? I know the ‘old bull past breeding’ excuse was thrown around, but I share with you the sensible words of Dr. Ian Redmond, a world-renowned and respected conservationist and biologist, “An old male self-evidently has a good immune system and may carry the genes giving immunity to the next epidemic which might kill some apparently stronger young males. In such circumstances an older male might resume breeding and pass on those important genes.”

Words worth considering don’t you think?

Wildlife protectors and conservationists don’t usually get to air our views Mr. Knowlton, rangers are too busy on the field, protecting wildlife and often don’t have access to world news. I see SCI and DSC have taken full advantage of this, which isn’t really fair.

You deserve a balanced view on this matter, so I will soon be sending you a petition, signed by conservationists and rangers from as many outposts as possible.

Again, I thank you for your time.

With respect and kind regards,

Raabia Hawa

KWS Honorary Warden,

Founder, Walk With Rangers.

Twitter: @raabiahawa

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Africa Geographic Editorial

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  • Isabel Webber

    Thank you for writing this letter ♥

  • Tigressbythetail

    Bravo! I pray you hit your target right in the heart. Please accept my apologies for my ignorant and arrogant countrymen. This letter will move the hardest of hearts.

  • Jean Hughes

    Thank you for writing such an intelligent, letter. These words are better than all the ridiculous threats this man and his family has endured. Let us hope he now realises his mistake, and does not take the life of this animal, and instead put his obvious wealth behind real conservation initiatives, and leaves the animals alone

  • Franziska

    Wow. Wonderful letter. Debunks a lot of the ‘sanitation efforts’ Knowlton’s PR team have come up with. My letter would have been a lot less polite.

  • Johan

    I hope Mr. Knowlton has some form of Empathy!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empathy

  • Ian Redmond

    It will be interesting to see what the reply is to this carefully worded and respectful letter from an African ranger to a Texan trophy hunter… we live in hope!

  • John Andrew Burton

    A well reasoned and sensible response.

  • HP

    Great letter but all this to a ignorant idiot who has “studied very little” (as posted by him on FB profile) and obviously not educated enough to understand the true value of wildlife or maybe what been human is all about!

  • Gail Potgieter

    A letter from a Kenyan ranger, whose wildlife (and her own life) is under severe threat… Mainly due to the policies of her home country. I work closely with the Namibian equivalent – community game guards. These guys patrol all the time and monitor Namibia’s desert black rhino population intensively. As the Kenyan ranger states, they don’t have much access to the net to air their views, but I have spoken to many of them on the topic.

    They realise, as she points out, that rhinos are incredibly valuable, and that Namibian rhinos belong to the people of Namibia. As Namibians who are working on the ground in conservation, they understand that if they manage their wildlife properly, the populations will increase. This population increase will lead to monetary income for the country and for their own conservancies – through photographic tourism AND trophy hunting.

    The game guards in Namibia’s conservancies (particularly in the North-West) patrol without fear for their lives. Poaching has declined to the point that there is very little threat to the rangers. They are in this happy situation because of the policies of their home country. Maybe, instead of blaming Namibia for their successful black rhino conservation programme, Kenyans should examine Namibia’s recipe….

    • Daisydot

      From a country that slaughters to death via clubbing around 70 – 80,000 seals per annum – please explain to me and a wider audience, what policies are these?
      So above board is this annual practice, that no journalists, media or conservation agencies are allowed to witness the event.

      The fact that someone has written such an articulate, passionate letter to someone who is coming to your country to shoot (cause its no longer considered to be hunting) a defenceless old rhino – you should support her and not run her down. No matter from what country she originates.
      I wonder if the Namibian Government will publish the much anticipated rhino hunt. I guess the old guy would love his lifeless body up in lights …

    • Rene Fourie

      It is a HE – the ranger is a HE

    • Jhm0699

      It’s the Namibian “policy” that sold the right to a rich American to kill an endangered species! I am ashamed that it is one of my countrymen who will carry out the death sentence. But what else can you expect from an egotistical Texan.

  • Lekkerjob

    <3

  • Eduardo Coelho

    congratulations ! you have the right focus on this question.

  • Cheryl

    Thank you!!

  • Genesis

    post your letter here…. http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/start_a_petition/?bgMYedb&v=23918 / we will sign… the whole world will sign…Thank you for this!

  • Flic

    Excellent well expressed……. so passionate. thank you

  • meezer3

    Such a well thought out and eloquently stated letter for the asking of a stay of execution, pleading for a life that -does- matter, and from someone who is at the very heart of the matter and knows first hand the circumstances that conservation and the fate of all Rhinos face in todays world. Kudos and Amen to you, my friend, I certainly could never had said it better. Thank you for those wonderful words. Truly spoken from the heart. God bless.

  • Greer Noble

    I believe, like ecotourism, local
    tribesmen should be the ‘guardians’ of the rhino and all other species,
    endangered or not, and the people of a country, the sole beneficiaries.
    In this way the entire country would benefit, raising their sense of
    pride and dignity. In this way every properly informed local would
    become fiercely protective towards ‘their’ wildlife and poachers would
    stand little chance. A forceful conservation team armed with educational
    videos could sweep each country on an ongoing basis, motivating every
    living being, children and adults alike, about the long term benefits of
    protecting their wildlife and all natural resources with which mother
    nature has so generously endowed their respective countries. If this
    could be implemented with extreme urgency.. God knows there is enough
    National Geographic and other footage available, this would be an
    incredible ‘investment’ for future generations. In short, convert all
    Africans into becoming ‘conservationists’ and instilling a sense of
    pride and the long term benefits (or consequences) of their actions.

    • Roland Giesler

      Your ideas sound good, but what do you suggest we say to those that experience hunger on a daily basis? Their interest in conservation is zero and no amount of natgeo video will change that. If you could find a way however to show them how conservation could feed them and give them some very basic economic means, I’m sure it will be really easy to “sell”.

  • poof

    @Gail Potgieter: I do not agree with your point of view. First of all, don’t you think Kenyan rangers have enough trouble with their own politicians? You might have not enough information or knowledge how politics and second of all, how money works. It simply talks. I personally do not accept that any human is taking a gun and is killing an animal, young or old, anywhere and even worse for pleasure. This is utterly inhuman and I will never ever accept that I belong to the same species, unfortunately I do. Feel happy if the poaching crisis did not reach yet the region you are talking about and be sure that it will. The demand for Rhino horn will not stop until the last Rhino will be gone. I am thankful that someone wrote a very good letter about etics to someone whose etic is about money that can by anything in this pittiful place called world.

  • Jay Merrick

    Nicely written, Sadly the target audience probably lacks the empathy or reading comprehension to be impacted. That seems to be the biggest issue when trying to communicate with people like them.

  • Rayno Egner

    Nice letter and yes well written. Only problem is Kenya and its Parks gave up their right to make an opinion 35 years ago when they banned hunting and susequently lost 80 % of their wildlife doing so. They have hardly any rhino so why would we want to listen to them if they have no clue how to look afyer their own wildlife???? Rather let South Africa and Namibia who have conserved and dramatically increased their rhino and other wildlife populations make statements as they must obviously know how to manage these species. The people of Kenya dont see Rhino as important and in my opinion can write as many letters as they want but actions will always speak louder than words and clearly their actions allowed their rhino populations to dwindle while in the south our populations have increased. Writing letters aint gonna save the species. Putting the money where your mouth is will!!!

    • Rene Fourie

      Sorry Rayno but I completely disagree with you about how have South Africa increased their rhino population……last year 1003 rhino’s were poached and slaughtered to death. The Government is not helping: our elephants, lions, leopards, cheetah’s are ALL on the endangered list. How on earth can you say that SA have INCREASED our rhino population. Are living under a rock? And do not point a finger to Kenya: at least their Government is involved in trying to stop poaching and have stopped more than 2 years ago issuing hunting licences – SA still issues them. And do a bit of research on how Kenya is protecting their rhino’s. Dramatically increased our rhino population? Please send me the source of this info.

      • Roland Giesler

        Rene, I’m afraid you’re totally misinformed here. The facts are there are 4800 black rhino and 20000 white rhino in South Africa, when less than 100 years ago there where 50! It was the Natal Parks board that first started selling rhinos, but SA law did not allow private game ownership. This was changed in the early 1990′s and gave private owners an incentive to breed rhinos.
        The Black Rhino population has doubled in the last 20 years!

        You can read it all here: http://perc.org/sites/default/files/Saving%20African%20Rhinos%20final.pdf

        In contrast, Kenya, Tanzania and other have not followed this route and they have practically no rhinos left. Of course poaching is a problem, but not breeding rhinos is an even bigger problem. The former is caused by hugely inflated market prices for rhino horn due to the immensely short-sighted CITEs ban, but the latter is caused by short-sighted politics and so called “green activism”, which have really only achieved killing more rhinos.

        • Rene Fourie

          Roland, I’m not going to carry on discussing this with you. I don’t know from which country you are but in the last 5 years, we (in South Africa) have lost almost 3000 rhinos to poachers….and more black than white rhinos. If this trend continues, there will be NO rhinos in the wild within 7 – 10 years. There are way too many pages, articles and numbers I can provide you with as proof – as I also belong to about 10 anti=rhino poaching groups and SanParks releases the nr of slaughtered rhinos in the different provinces each week – so, if you are going to hold on to just one article and not broaden your research, then I really can’t discuss this with you any further. As to Kenya and Tanzania….even Botswana (as they were the first country to say: no more hunting licences to anybody!), I will support their rangers, the effort to save our beloved animals and every positive step they take to preserve all life on our continent. I am terribly disappointed in Namibia though but then again, who am I to talk – look at my government……making a profit out of rhino poaching. So thanks for the response but I see no need to carry on with this discussion as per the reasons I mentioned earlier.

          • Roland Giesler

            Rene, firstly, to state that you’re not going to carry on discussing this with me because my perspective differs from yours, is childish and immature to say the least. The whole point of discussion is to engage, share information and learn. You asked for source info and I provided it.

            I used to think that banning hunting is a solution, just like you seem to be thinking now. However, there are people that don’t care a hoot about whether you and I, or a government for that matter, say they may not hunt, they simply do, period. How are we going to stop them? There are different possible directions that can be taken and we must be sharp and cunning to outwit them.

            Firstly: Where is money going to come from to pay thousands of rangers to protect our wildlife? More taxes? Only to have our SA government use it for the next ride on the gravy train? I think not.

            Secondly: The demand for rhino horn is mostly fuelled by vanity demand from Vietnam. (http://qz.com/82302/theres-a-country-that-will-pay-300000-per-rhino-horn-to-cure-cancer-and-hangovers-and-its-wiping-out-rhinos/). So how are we going to tell these people it’s not worth it to buy rhino horn? Do you really think we can just fly there are tell them to change their minds? Yes, in time, the culture could be changed, but that may be too late and no rhinos will be left.

            So what can we realistically do?

            One solution, that we can see from historical data, is to grow the number of rhinos and allow the sale of their horns, skins and more. That will at least drive the price down and remove the exclusivity from the vanity market. That alone may not be enough however. More importantly, consider this: If a farmer can breed a rhino that is worth at least a R100 000, would he/she rather do that than breed another head of cattle to be sold for a pittance in comparison? If it is profitable, rhinos will be bred all over and we have proof of that in that the once 20+ white rhinos have grown to 20000. The same, albeit not as many Black Rhinos. Also, if a farmer has an expensive asset in a heard of rhinos, one would expect him/her to protect that asset and not at the taxpayer’s expense either, which is indeed what has happened and does happen.

            The latter option may not be an option that you may want to hear or consider, but maybe the question to ask is this: Am I able to support that which is necessary to ensure the rhino and other wildlife’s survival?

            And don’t short-circuit on me, please… let’s keep the conversation going.

          • Rene Fourie

            Roland, my reason for not wanting to discuss this with you anymore, is not because your opinion differs from mine…..if you read my previous post, the reason is that I doubt your research as you made a totally, totally incorrect statement by saying that South Africa’s rhino and elephant population have grown over the last 20 years: that is so far from the truth. I’m just going to focus now on rhino’s but the same goes for elephants, leopards, cheetahs, lions, the tigers in India etc. The rhino numbers have dropped by such an alarming rate over the past 7 – 8 years – it is estimate that rhino’s will be extinct within the next 10 years max. Some say 7, some say 5 but I will be positive and say 10. So that is the reason why I don’t really see the point of discussing this anymore: you think SA have been successful in conserving our animals – just look at the numbers SanParks releases of poached animals. And it is actually China that is the big culprit in demanding & buying rhino horns, followed by Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia – even South Korea. The Chinese make tiger penis soup for crying out loud and charge $8000 per serving. The Northern White Rhino has been extinct now for about 4 years and I read the other day that one of the black rhino sub-species have also gone extinct. The Asian rhino is in more trouble than our rhino: in India, Indonesia etc. As for solutions, I don’t know – fight fire with fire – get more trained rangers – use our Army if we have to, it’s not as if they are doing anything useful. And by saying that farmers have herds of rhinos….those days are long gone. The maximum rhinos you will see together will probably be 4 – 6 and that is considered as a big herd these days. I will be more than willing to pay more tax to protect our wildlife the government can prove that the money is going to preserving our endangered animals. At least the governments in Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, DRC etc are trying to protect their heritage and wildlife. So please don’t call me childish and immature if I don’t want to discus it further: I have been involved in fighting rhino poaching for years and some discussions will just go nowhere especially if the other party believes that the rhino population has grown tremendously in the last 20 years. Words mean nothing, we need action: we need more skilled and trained rangers (like the one that wrote the letter from Kenya), we need guns, ammunition, patrol vehicles, helicopters etc. How can our couple of rangers fight former Renamo soldiers coming from Mozambique with war weapons to poach our rhinos? We need to fight back with action, not with words as that will bring us nowhere and animals keep on dying – and that has been proved over the last 10 years – talking, talking, talking and the rhino numbers are now dangerously low. I do not have answers: I am not rich enough to make a difference, there is now way we can change the traditional medicine outlook of South East Asia, all I can do is spread awareness and pray that a miracle will happen. So those are my reasons….not childish or immature at all.

          • Roland Giesler

            Rene, I gave you the source that Vietnam is the biggest rhino horn destination and why.

            Also, you need to take the last 100 years into consideration, not just the last 20. (many articles and opinion pieces do not mean more support or better research, but the comprehensiveness of the research is vital, so we don’t need lots of articles saying the same, one good one is enough)

            The white rhino was almost extinct and only through commercial means was this eventually turned around. This was not done with some of the others that have gone extinct.

            Like I said, rhinos will be shot/killed, whether we like it or not.

            Unless we start and maintain an aggressive breeding program to swell the numbers, we’re going to loose the battle. Do date, no-one has figured out a way to do this, unless there is a financial profit motive, which is what I’m trying to convey. It’s simple. The more rhinos, the better their chances of survival.

            Do I like it that people hunt animals for other reasons than food? No, I don’t. But if we want them to survive we have to pragmatic and do what is necessary.

          • Rene Fourie

            Good luck – and please read more than one article when you want to convince me that your stats are correct. China is the biggest buyer of rhino horn. But as I’ve said, good luck – at least we want the rhinos to survive. Cheers.

        • Zombie

          ….bullshit!!!!

          • Roland Giesler

            Trollshit??

  • Roland Giesler

    Unfortunately, Raabia, being an honorary game warden, doesn’t help you much since you don’t seem to see things they way they are. In South Africa and Namibia a well planned strategy was implemented to develop the stock levels of endangered species. This has worked very well, bringing the white rhino back from the brink of extinction, to cite but one noteworthy example.

    In your Kenya however, where the opposite was done and no commercialisation of game allowed, I believe about 80% of the Serengeti herds have been decimated, by needy locals, but mainly by foreign poachers. How well did that strategy work for your area? And for your game?

    Should you not sweep in front of your own door, before criticizing Namibia’s policies?

    Is it not the disastrous policy of banning the sale of rhino horn that has driven the (black market) prices sky high and made poaching ridiculously profitable?? Are the mechanics of market demands to difficult for you to understand? I can’t believe that. You seem to be an educated person, but how do you think you will convince a few million rich Chinese buyers that they don’t need rhino horn any more? Only if they see that fallacy of their “imagined rhino horn benefits”, will they give it up, not because you say so! If rhino horn becomes cheap, the rich will probably not want it any more, since it’s not a drug that they get hooked on, it’s simply a status symbol. By allowing the sale of rhino horn, you’d take that away from them and will give a lot of people incentives to protect and breed rhinos. But the way things are now, we’ll soon have most of Africa stripped of rhino, while you’re standing in Kenya pleading with the people to please not hunt a rhino. You must see that is not helping much if anything, not so?

    Here is some more food for thought: http://goo.gl/MLUqzN

    Emotional appeals have no effect on greed buyers. Furthermore, the proceed of poaching don’t give or any “game protection operation” a single cent. Rather, they cost you and everyone else a huge amount of money and yet you’re losing the battle.

    You will have change you strategy before the last rhino is poached. Please, change course now, before it’s too late.

    • Roland Giesler

      Please also read this information on why and where the horn goes to: It’s all a vanity purchase! http://qz.com/82302/theres-a-country-that-will-pay-300000-per-rhino-horn-to-cure-cancer-and-hangovers-and-its-wiping-out-rhinos/

    • Daisydot

      The Serengeti “herds” are in Tanzania, not Kenya

      • Roland Giesler

        Apologies, of course you’re quite right. It doesn’t change the fact that Tanzania & Kenya are not winning the battle and they had huge stocks not too long ago, which is is my point. Wrong policies are the cause of lost battles.

    • Swati Prasad Siddharth

      Do two wrongs make a right? Kenya May or may not be right in the no hunting policy. SA May or may not be right in its commercial breeding plans. But does it give any of us the right to accept that canned hunting is right? If you are fighting a battle to increase numbers then even an ancient rhino killed is one number less. If people have the money and the concern to save wildlife, ensure that the money is used to save wildlife. Don’t buy a hunting license with it! But if it’s a sop to your conscience – hey, you are just another poacher. Just another murderer. Instead of auctioning hunting rights how how about auctioning conservation rights? How about auctioning a publicity campaign for those who are animal protectors? How about auctioning a special safari trip with a professional wildlife photographer who gives you his copyright to some stunning photos that Nat geo may buy off you and make you richer? There are a zillion options … Positive options …

  • OneMoreGeneration

    OMG founder Olivia also wrote to Corey with the same concerns:

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=793492304010630&set=o.123992287648317&type=1&theater

    The issue affects us all and if we are to try and save black rhinos from extinction, then we should all speak up. Applying old animal conservation practices to a critically endangered species should not be allowed. They work when a species is abundant but globally, the numbers of black rhinos are too low to allow anyone to pull the trigger. This is not about being anti-hunting, it’s about saving a species for at least One More Generation… and beyond.

  • Barbara

    Thank you for writing such a heartfelt, intelligent letter Raabia. We can only hope that the recipient has the intelligence to listen. I spent time at Solio Lodge, Northern Kenya in September last year, a private rhino breeding reserve. I cannot imagine anyone wanting to kill these incredible animals. Please do the right thing by yourself and humanity Corey Knowlton, and donate the blood money to conserving the rhino species.

  • BAHAMES

    well said!! keep up the good work of a REAL fight. Maybe some people far away will be educated. This massacre of innocent animals being killed on uneven, unfair terms for some ego trip and for senseless human consumption must STOP!!

  • Tracey Dunn Williamson

    Eloquent, factual and thoughtful. Knowlton is a thrill killing, power seeker, typical of DSC , while this man has power, compassion and respect. Things this egomaniacal punk will never have.

  • Marjorie Ackerman

    EVERYONE PLEASE GO TO THE USFWS PAGE ON FACEBOOK, PLEASE COMMENT ON THEIR BEAUTIFUL ELEPHANT PICTURE AND MAKE YOUR COMMENTS PUBLIC!! THIS LETTER WAS POSTED THERE TODAY!

  • Simone Schultz

    I would gladly sign your petition and encourage everybody I know to do the same. Thank you for doing such amazing work.

  • Swati Prasad Siddharth

    I just wrote the following in reply to one of Mr.Roland’s comments below. I write it again in applause to this wonderful appeal … And please start an avaaz campaign now! We will all sign.

    Do two wrongs make a right? Kenya May or may not be right in the no hunting policy. SA May or may not be right in its commercial breeding plans. But does it give any of us the right to accept that canned hunting is right? If you are fighting a battle to increase numbers then even an ancient rhino killed is one number less. If people have the money and the concern to save wildlife, ensure that the money is used to save wildlife. Don’t buy a hunting license with it! But if it’s a sop to your conscience – hey, you are just another poacher. Just another murderer. Instead of auctioning hunting rights how how about auctioning conservation rights? How about auctioning a publicity campaign for those who are animal protectors? How about auctioning a special safari trip with a professional wildlife photographer who gives you his copyright to some stunning photos that Nat geo may buy off you and make you richer? There are a zillion options … Positive options …

    • Roland Giesler

      I hear what you’re saying Swati, but unless we realise and acknowledge that there are people that need to earn money from farming rhino and create the environment in which it is legally possible and profitable, the battle is lost.

      I can see you don’t like to solution, but you should ask yourself what is more important: You opinion and feeling or the survival of the rhino?

      Most so-called environmentalists actually consider their particular feelings about something more important than the survival of that which they pretend to protecting. If that was not the case, they would consider the options that have been proven to work, but they don’t. Quite arrogant and selfish, don’t you think?

      • Jhm0699

        As to those who “need to earn money from farming rhino and create the environment in which it is legally possible and profitable” I say find another profession. That is not an old profession but a very modern profession that only started in recent years. And those who went into it did for the greed of future earnings. They could see the demise of the rhinos by poachers but they are no different than the poachers. They are money driven!

        • Roland Giesler

          It is clear from your response that you don’t understand the dilemma. Without someone being able to and actually making money out of protecting and keeping rhinos, there is no future for rhinos.

          You have criticised those that do this, but don’t offer a viable alternative. Are you arguing for that sake of arguing, or do you have a practical and sensible solution that will work to ensure rhinos survive as a species?

          • Rene Fourie

            Roland, you really are a rude know-it-all. Are you doing anything to help save the rhino because all I’ve seen from you are criticism and knocking everybody’s ideas. Just words from you – no action. Some of us are actually doing something and not just talking. Words mean nothing, we need action and that is not what we are getting from you.

            Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

          • Jhm0699

            Rene — unfortunately Roland’s idea is to “farm rhinos” and sell the horns on the open market. I doubt the profits made in these “sales” will never go to conservation but will line the pockets of the farmers. At the same time it will increase the markets for rhino horn thus leaving a never-ending cycle of farming and killing rhino for their horns. Roland has no interest in ending the rhino horn markets. His interest is greed.

          • Roland Giesler

            , . Really, Jhm0699, my postulated greed or not has nothing to so with this. Do you realise that the only reason you had breakfast this morning is because someone found it economically viable to produce something that you’d want for breakfast? That’s not greed. It’s just simple economics. And that will save the rhino. Economics, not greed!

            With rhino (and other endangered species) it’s essentially the same issue. If you think there’s a lot of spare money ($Billions) lying around to use to permanently escort every rhino, you’re deeply mistaken. Secondly, I’m not saying rhinos should be farmed for their horns! Where did I say that? But why is it wrong to sell, for example, the horn of a rhino that has died? Or why should we not encourage someone who wants to farm rhino to be able to sell them to game parks or similar entities? Surely that is the best possible interim measure to ensure the swelling of the numbers of the rhino population?

            Of course the matter of rhino poaching must be resolved and ended. But you don’t have a workable or proven plan, do you? Neither does Raabia Hawa. Neither do I, but at least I’m not riding the conservation gravy train like she does (as someone pointed out).

            Are you surprised to see me say that? Don’t be, because I’m trying to bring some sense to a lot of senseless talk, some of it being just hot air! Not all of it though. All I’m really saying is that the most sensible thing to do it to breed as many rhinos as possible. For that happen, it must make economic sense. And believe me, I would do it tomorrow if I were in a position to do so!

          • Jhm0699

            First the only rhino farmers I am aware of are doing it to sell the horns. Second, how does it make sense to raise as many rhinos as possible to then sell them to “game parks and similar entities” when the poachers will just kill them for the horns? You’re just putting more dollars in the poachers pockets. Third, you asked “why is it wrong to sell, for example, the horn of a rhino that has died?”. How are you going to tell the difference between a legal and non-legal horn on the market place?

            As i said before, the solution lies in putting pressure on the governments of the countries where the market is for the horns. Trade sanctions against those countries will go a long way in getting them to cooperate. Stop buying “made in China”. If that were done on a global scale we could bring them to their knees.

          • Rene Fourie

            Amen – a voice of reason Jhm! I just refuse to respond to Roland anymore. Such a load of arrogance and empty words I have not come across in my life. Sell horns of rhinos that have died – are you serious? How are you going to monitor that? Really?! Not wasting any more energy on him. Refuse to even read his posts – got the summary from your answers. Keep on the good fight Jhm!
            Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

          • Jhm0699

            Thanks Rene — I keep trying but it’s like talking to my shoe. Roland may not be a rhino farmer but he has some kind of dog in this fight.

            It’s the same as trying to tell the pro-gun lobby in U.S.that the guns are the problem with our crime rate.

          • Roland Giesler

            Hmmm, have you ever been to Africa, Jhm0699? O, nevermind..

          • Jhm0699

            Yes I have — 3 times on safari. The most recent was Nov. 2013 in Tanzania.

          • Roland Giesler

            You’re quite perceptive, Jhm0699, and quite right about the guns in the US. The problem is that perpetrators have the guns and those in the guns-free zones have none, so lots of defenceless people get killed, almost exclusively to the gun free zones.

            If you can understand the problem with guns in America, how come you’re having such a hard time seeing a way out to help rhinos survive?

          • Jhm0699

            Because in Africa as in the U.S. guns are not the solution, they are the problem.

          • Roland Giesler

            You’re funny, Rene. At least you made me smile :-)

            You said right from the start you won’t engage me and I asked you why. If you have a real rebuttal, I’d love to hear it. Don’t hide from dialogue and engaging whose viewpoints you don’t agree with. Do you have any idea how many times I have seen the mistake in something I thought to be correct and changed my view? That’s called learning (and I’m not being sarcastic)

            BTW. In the next 50 years more than 20,000 rhino in Southern Africa will die of old age. Something to think about.

          • Roland Giesler

            Jhm0699, how exactly do you think sanctions against China are going to work (despite Vietnam being the bigger problem…), when China (together with Arab states) is keeping the US dollar afloat? That is something that will never happen, at least not in our lifetime. Of course there are many ideas people have and they are all worth exploring and thinking through. But then we have let those that don’t work go and the sooner the better. The longer that takes, the less rhinos are left and pretty soon none will be left. Then it really becomes a futile discussion.

            Private property is a really strong motivator and without that we have people that live in miserable drudgery. Even in sharing communities, the principle is still that you share that which you have freely. Sharing your neighbours goods with others is theft. People protect their property and they do so well. A poacher coming against a private owner has much less chance of success than someone that goes after rhino in the Kruger National park for example or on the plains of Tanzania of instance. Now you can argue as much as you like, but the results are clear and undeniable: There are almost no rhinos left in Tanzania, yet on private game reserves in South Africa they are growing in numbers despite they poaching. Some just refuse to see that, no matter how the evidence is presented.

            Somehow I don’t think we are going to agree. I think rhinos must be helped to survive in the only currently practical fashion. You have a more idealist viewpoint about it. If rhinos do survive by doing it “your” way, fantastic, then we don’t need any other way. But if they don’t survive, you have taken an awful gamble and allowed something to be destroyed that could have been saved had a more pragmatic approach (like I’m suggesting) been followed. Which is the more likely to allow the rhino to survive? That is the real question to ask.

            The world is full of people that are horrible and nasty and that do things they shouldn’t. Yet they do. If rhino where your children, would you gamble away their future and lives with a purist, but probably mistaken gamble, or would you make sure that they were safe even if it meant doing something that doesn’t suit your purist views? I know what I would do.

            It 20 years time, where will you stand? Will you bemoan the extinction of rhinos or will you say, despite following a route you didn’t favour, we have a thriving rhino population?

          • Roland Giesler

            I’m not going to do a tit-for-tat with you, but if you are doing so much more than talking, maybe will in you discuss profile, so we can learn from you?

            I’m merely noting what has worked in the past and what has not. Asking poachers to please not shoot or maime the rhino doesn’t help much, does it? Why are you getting angry as me, because I’m pointing out the obvious?

            Rene, I still need to have an answer from you on this question: Do you want the rhino to survive as a species?

          • Jhm0699

            If it was just a matter of species survival, the zoos of the world are already filling that need so we don’t need rhino farmers making bundles of money off the horns of farmed rhino. The real issue is keeping the rhinos safe in the wild which of course takes a lot of money and politics. The governments of China, Vietnam and other Asian countries that traffic the horns have the key to the solution. The rest of the world, including Africa, has a responsibility to put pressure on the offending countries and in the meantime to put up the dollars to protect the rhinos.

  • Swati Prasad Siddharth

    Hi Roland, First I need to say to you a thank-you. Often and often people reply with their egos! I truly appreciate your taking the effort. Mainly because discussion and education is what I think is probably the only real solution to almost any problem created by man. This is going to be a long reply and ask that you bear with me in patience.

    I do not have any claim to either professional knowledge, being an environmentalist or having a “holier than thou” attitude – not even being a vegan. A vegetarian, yes. I am also trying to be an ethical shopper. I certainly recycle my plastic and glass. I carry cloth bags to the market. But by no means do I have the right to preach.

    I do claim a right to air my views. And I am perfectly willing to hear all sides of a story. Not to sit in judgement but to be informed and thus to try to be a better creature on earth.

    So, in reply to what you say to me … yes, I can see that human beings need money to survive. We all do. We all have aspirations to improve our material lot. So – make money. Fine. But surely there are ways and ways to make money? Does it have to be at the cost of another creatures life? To say that the said rhino is old and will anyway be culled or be killed in the natural scheme of things and this may as well generate revenue – yes, its an emotional response when I say I don’t agree with this philosophy. To be perfectly honest, I have always believed we don’t have the right to take another life. Whatever form. This is nothing religious. Just a personal sentiment. So, am I thrilled with the above argument? No. Am I being idealistic in hoping people will give their surplus funds (and anyone buying anything at any auction has surplus funds, I am sure!) for the same cause without killing? Maybe. What is really wrong with idealism?

    We have got to a stage in our thinking where we justify violence. One man’s fight for independence is after all another man’s terrorist attack. So whose side do we take? And if we use the certain-death-can-at-least-be-profitable argument, are we not just one step away from applying it on fellow humans? Today its a rhino. Tomorrow it will be the fast dwindling ethnic races, tribals, aborigines … in some societies women and children!! There are after all plenty of countries where the male female ratio is lopsided, that are ageing populations … if its necessary to correct that balance someday, is this the kind of logic we will apply?

    Lots of this is tangential arguing. But my primary and only question is this “Why is no one even willing to look for a POSITIVE, PEACEFUL solution”?

    And of course, there is the underlying fear always … even if we allow for a moment that the Namibian Government has no other option to raise funds … where is the assurance that this rhino’s price will actually protect his kinsmen? How do we ensure that there is not one corrupt greedy person there who will not try to make a fast buck? Is there any guarantee that this mercy killing will not have been mere murder? What if the wrong rhino gets killed? What if this becomes the perpetual easy way out for the government to raise money? Who is REALLY monitoring all this? Who is playing the role of conscience? And how will the “ethical” hunter live with his or her conscience if the target was “innocent”?

  • citizen

    Rabia Hawa, be careful of the word “decimated’. We would be very lucky if our wild life were only being decimated. it would mean we have ninety percent left! go look in your dictionary!

  • citizen

    ‘Decimation’…….. a punishment invented by the Romans to discipline rebellious army regiments, one man in ten was executed as group punishment and a warning to the others.

  • PARTHA SARATHI BISWAS

    Excellently narrated the plight of Black Rhinos – a severely endangered species and our duties to save them. I cannot understand how this sort of auction (for killing an endangered animal) takes place!

  • peggy coffey

    Unfortunately with the devaluing rand set against corruption , greed and many other internal factors here in Africa this brave and amazing ranger ‘s words will possibly be lost to the deaf ears of gun toting Americans with big bucks and bored out of their minds . Lets hope that a few of these so called hunters have some compassion and intelligence to see the bigger picture.

  • Nikki De Villiers Gray

    I have just returned from a wonderful trip to the Amboseli – where the last 4 rhino were relocated from a few years ago.
    African herds have indeed been decimated – by poaching and drought.

    (On a different note, due to global warming, I fear for the magnificent herds of elephant who depend on the water and grass in the swamps which rely on water from snow on Killimanjaro).

  • Mampuru

    Thanks for the Corey Knowlton’s of this world. Not that, for the life of me, I can understand the challenge of “shooting” such a beautiful animal. It will probably be easier to shoot a parked bus. But we need people like Corey making such a substantial contribution to the owners of such animals to breed more of them and look after them. Without this kind of revenue, South African Private Rhino owners would have lost their battle against Rhino poachers a long time ago. I also appreciated that Greenies like Raabia Hawa have a fantastic time guarding Rhino at government expense and having a whale of a time in the bush. I’ve been there myself. As for his “friend” “taking a bullet for the Rhino”: What a load of hogwash either way. But have fun while you are at it Raabia. The real custodians of Wildlife such as private game ranchers and serious governments will see soon enough through the gravy-trains the Raabie’s of this world are riding rather than doing some honest work for a change.

  • Susan Lignelli Behanna Potter

    Thank You for speaking out.

  • Willem Frost

    I will give you two credits for this article: (i) your tone is at least decent and civilised. Some of the foulest language I have ever had to endure, came from from anti-hunting bunny-huggers who obviously think the way to change the world is through swearing and verbal abuse. You do not seem to fall in this category; (ii) You also seem willing to engage in rational and intellectual debate. My experience with the anti-hunters (especially the animal rights activists) is very different. Typically, they flatly refuse to acknowledge facts or statistics or common sense that do not support their weird views of the world.

    As for the case that you are putting forward: it is weak and unconvincing and barely more than irrelevant sentimental rhetoric.

    You say: “…please know that we are protectors of life, not just because we are rangers and scouts, but because we are human.” With respect, you do not seem to have a clue about conservation, conservation economics or conservation politics in 21st century Africa. Sorry, but I can’t regard you as a conservationist. One does not have to look further than this statement in your article to find evidence of your lack of insight into the workings of conservation: “…. that privatizing such public property would, in fact, be a gross violation of the rights of the African people? I will let you ponder over that for a while.” This statement is, respectfully, nonsense.

    You say: ” Poachers have decimated our herds, and Africa is no longer teeming with wildlife.” Well, I will tell you why your herds have been decimated. Kenya outlawed hunting in 1977 and conservationists now estimated that as a result the country may have lost as much as 80 percent of its wildlife since. All species are also showing a declining trend in numbers. The second part of your statement is wrong: Namibia and South Africa (two countries with strong and well run hunting industries) is teeming with wildlife. Most species show an increasing trend in numbers and some species have even expanded their distribution ranges. Can you please explain to us why wildlife is ‘decimated’ in non-hunting Kenya, but prospering in hunting countries like Namibia and South Africa?

    You go on to say: “… Is this what SCI and DSC have reduced the value of our wildlife to? A few boots and uniforms?” This is just sentimental outburst and illustrates lack of insight into how a successful conservation model works.

    Here is one of your real gems: ” he didn’t ask if it was a breeding bull, he didn’t ask if it was male or female, white or black. He just saw poachers, and a rhino, and did what he knew he had to do. THAT, kind sir, is true conservation, management and protection that will ensure the survival of our precious rhino species”. No, madam, this is NOT conservation or wildlife management. May I suggest you make some effort to obtain some insight into successful conservation and wildlife management practices, before your silly attitude cost more people their lives unnecessary. We all regret the loss of life, but if this is your idea of conservation and wildlife management, you live in the realm of absurd lunacy – the world of nutcases. May I also suggest you start by studying the conservation models followed in Namibia and South Africa – THAT IS true conservation.

    You then go and make a wild, sweeping statement that has no grounds: “Hunting never has been, and probably never will be, in the true interest of the African people or nations.” Can you please explain to us how you arrived at this great ‘insight’? Your statement is simply not true and you should know that untruths destroy your credibility.

    You should also know that the Species Survival Commission of the IUCN is supportive of hunting and regards it as an important tool for conservationists. The IUCN is also specifically supportive of this rhino hunt in Namibia. Do you really believe that all these scientists have got it all wrong? Please also note that these are real conservationists; they base their reasoning on the scientific approach and ado not allow sentiment at a personal level to cloud their judgement. It would be interesting to learn WHY you think your tragic approach to conservation is superior. But perhaps you should first familiarise yourself with the IUCN and real conservation.

    • Roland Giesler

      Well said, Willem, I couldn’t agree with you more. This woman has no clue what the real issues are. She’s also not a real ranger, but simply a face to promote some agenda, hence being an “honorary game warden”…

  • http://www.sibelhodge.com/ Sibel Hodge

    An amazing and heartfelt letter. Beautiful words to sum up the significance of Africa’s wildlife. A huge thanks to Raabia Hawa and all the anti-poaching rangers who put their lives in danger to stay true to their heart and the conservation of animals. Stay safe :) xx

  • rpc

    If only powerful and SANE words would stay the detached…. Such a well written statement that i pray does not fall on deaf ears. Kudos Sir for your eloquent and polite kick in the pants of an outrageous and appalling situation!

  • Roz Flax Sokol Pindyck

    Thank you for this hearwarming letter,bless you. I had no Idea,So sad that this happens, truly makes me ill. And who are these hearltess people that carry out these auction and killings of mother natures beautiful and rare beasts. The true ugly beasts lie in the hearts of “some so called ” humans:(.

  • truthon

    Intelligent, honest, open willingness to connect on a heart level … this is what the world needs.

  • Charlie Paxton

    The Namibian Black Rhino is a sub-species ( Diceros bicornis bicornis) to the East African Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis michaeli) so you cannot trans-locate this Namibian Black Rhino for breeding purposes to Kenya. Unfortunately
    .

  • Rupa Ddhoriya

    No one should purchase rhino or elephant products and those who
    do purchase will never live in peace as they will be cursed. They
    will pay the price through their karma.

  • Nerak

    I write as one who was born and raised in rural East Africa (Uganda) and enjoyed my immersion in the wildlife populations of Eastern, Southern and Western Africa.I am increasingly disappointed by the escalation of wildlife habitat loss and population decline. This is part of a very complex issue, with many facets – only one of which is poaching. However, I still find myself unable to comprehend how the behaviour of a wealthy (presumably educated) person who gets his “kicks” out of killing a magnificent and critically endangered animal, is considered to be normal. To openly premeditate the killing anything is frankly disturbing. Does he imagine that he is the hero George off to slay the mighty dragon? Pitiful! Stultifying!

    This letter is a good indication as to who the real heroes are – and who is the better educated and more empathic! Fantastic, eloquent response to something that threatens all of Africa. You have my utmost support!

  • Michael A.Stumpf

    Thank you! We think we (as humans) have such a thorough understanding of animals. The truth is, the more we learn, the more we learn we don’t know. The example of the endangered black rhino hunt, is just one more example, of many misconceptions that we have about wildlife. We all know very well that this kind of activity, is nothing more than entertainment for the rich, who seem to have everything else in life. This has nothing to do with conservation.

  • Linda Jane O’Brien

    This isn’t a letter but a plea for help, understanding, empathy and compassion, and should be considered in the spirit with which it was written.
    You touch the very core values and ethics upon which the fundamental web of a nation is woven with the purpose to bring together people of diverse cultures, ethnicities and interests to pave the path forward. USD 350’000 may be pocket change to some, but the values and principles you hit on are priceless. We all have to makes compromises and concessions at some point, but under no circumstances should we let go of the values that speak true to our hearts.
    Just because a Rhino is ‘assumed’ to be too old to reproduce, does that give us the right to consider him surplus to requirement? I know many people who didn’t have children in their lives for whatever the reasons, does that render them surplus to requirement, and should it be justified in putting them down? In fact these people are highly competitive in the workplace and lead interesting lives.
    I was under the impression that in Africa the legislation was not to interfere with nature, let nature take its own course. Even if an animal is seriously injured in territorial battles, the law dictates, let nature take its own course. However, in this instance that law was not respected; the rules of engagement were compromised. How can we point fingers at fundamentalists for distorting religion to suit their personal agendas when we look at this prime example of wastefulness?
    I pray every night for selfless acts of kindness to grip the hearts of humans, but like the guardian angel anti-poachers and game wardens that dance to the tune of ‘one step forward, three steps back’ in their continual fight for a harmonious balance of the universe and future generations of all living creatures, it seems too much to ask, I sometimes despair. I salute you, Ms. Haawa, you have my profound respect.
    May Mr. Knowlton keep an open mind and remember we wish to embrace him as a conservationist; I look forward to him honoring us with such a privilege.
    Linda Jane O’Brien

  • Joan McNaughton

    This is an astounding letter and I pray that the man who is supposed to receive it does, and that he reads it carefully. It is so well written, and will do so much more than the threats & name-calling. The money from these canned hunts or supposedly legal trophy hunting does not get to where it does any good. Rangers like the author of the letter are the heroes, and they sure aren’t over paid!

  • Matt Saracen

    Until the Chinese and Vietnamese abandon their pseudo-scientific medicinal beliefs, there’s no hope for the rhino.

  • http://www.anettemossbacher.com/ Anette Mossbacher

    Such a wonderful letter, very well written. I have so much respect for all Rangers out there risking their lives to safe the last rhinos in our crucial world!

  • BS METER

    Since A Walk with Rangers is asking for donations, can you please tell us if you are a registered charity or not? There is no indication that you are a charity on your website?

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