A permit to hunt an endangered African black rhino sold for $350,000 (£212,000) at an auction in the US state of Texas to raise money for conservation efforts but criticised by wildlife advocates.
A spokesman for the Dallas Safari Club, which sponsored Saturday night’s closed-door event, confirmed the sale of the permit for a hunt in Namibia. He declined to name the buyer.
The club’s executive director, Ben Carter, defended the auction, saying the money raised will go towards protecting the species.
He also said the rhino that the winner will be allowed to hunt is old, male and non-breeding – and that the animal was likely to be targeted for removal anyway because it was becoming aggressive and threatening other wildlife.
However, the auction drew howls from critics, including wildlife and animal rights groups, and the FBI earlier this week said it was investigating death threats against members of the club.
Officials from the Humane Society and the International Fund for Animal Welfare have said that while culling can be appropriate in abundant animal populations, all black rhinos should be protected, given their endangered status.
An estimated 4,000 black rhinos remain in the wild, down from 70,000 in the 1960s. Nearly 1,800 are in Namibia, the club says.
Critics have also said any rhino hunting sets a bad example.
“This auction is telling the world that an American will pay anything to kill their species,” said Jeffrey Flocken, North American regional director of the Massachusetts-based IFAW.