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A Rhino Hunt To Save Rhinos? Dallas Safari Club Makes A Case For Its $1 Million Auction

This weekend’s Dallas Safari Club convention will feature a flock of exhibitors, a herd of stuffed animals -- and an auction that’s kicked up international controversy.

In our Friday Conversation, executive director Ben Carter talks about how the club hopes to raise as much as $1 million to protect the rare black rhino by auctioning off the right to hunt one. But club members have been receiving death threats, and the FBI is investigating.

Carter says the rhino to be hunted is an old bull that's past the point of helping sustain the herd.

This is the sixth such auction in Namibia, but the first to be held outside the country. Carter says 100 percent of the money raised will go toward conservation efforts.

Interview Highlights: Ben Carter On...

...Killing A Black Rhino To Protect The Species: "The scientists are the ones that are telling us this is the most effective way to raise money to save the rhino and expand the black rhino population." [The club points to letters of support from such organizationsas the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.] 

...The North American Wildlife Conservation Model: "Wildlife has a value. And if you manage it properly, you'll have a surplus. And you can harvest those amounts of animals. People will pay money to hunt to buy permits or licenses, and so it keeps the population steady and managed."

...Hunting Vs. Poaching: "Most people living in a city, they see someone taking an animal, and all of that that they see or hear about they think is hunting. There's a lot of poaching that goes on, and in Africa it's out of control. And poaching is not hunting. Poaching is an illegal activity; hunting is a regulated activity. It's kind of like taking money out of a bank: A guy can go rob the bank and take the money, or a guy can make a withdrawal."

...On Reaction To The Auction Announcement: "I've gotten death threats to myself and my family.... I think what it is, to be honest, is a lot of people are just uninformed. They don't know anything about how the world works out there in the wild." (Update, 10:20 a.m. Jan. 9: The FBI says it's investigating multiple death threats made against hunting club members.)

...The Club's Annual Convention: "If you have any interest in the outdoors whatsoever, it's a great place to go and see things you'll never see anywhere -- accents from all over the world, you can talk to people who've that have been places you can only imagine.... This year we have $4.5 million worth of auction items." [The convention runs Thursday through next Sunday; as many as 45,000 are expected to attend.]

Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.