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CNN Reporter From Dallas Went Along On Black Rhino Hunt

Ed Lavandera
Ed Lavandera covered the three-day trek in Namibia where a black rhino was shot and killed.

A CNN reporter from Dallas went along to cover a black rhino hunt in northern Namibia. Ed Lavandera was there when Corey Knowlton, who bought a $350,000 permit at a Dallas Safari Club auction, fired the fatal shot.

“He wanted the world to see how this hunt went. He wanted to convince his critics, of which there are many, that conservation hunting has a place in wildlife management,” Lavandera says. “And it has a place in trying to save an endangered species like the black rhino here in Namibia.”

It took two days to plan the hunt and three days of trekking through rough, northern Namibian terrain.

“The hardest part was the lack of visibility. Many times you couldn’t see 10, 15 feet in any kind of direction,” says Lavandera. “What we know now after the hunt was over is that many time we were extremely close to the rhino and didn’t even know it.”

After Knowlton shot the rhino, CNN cameras caught this exchange with Lavandera.

Knowlton: “I’m pretty emotional right now to be honest.”

Lavandera: “You’ve been heavily criticized for doing what you just did. Do you still feel like what you did is going to benefit the black rhino in the future?”

Knowlton: “100 percent. I’ve felt like from day one it was benefitting the black rhino. And I’ll feel like that until the day I die.”

Corey Knowlton is 36 years old, the son of a Texas oil man. He grew up hunting with his father and has bagged big game across the globe. Knowlton told Lavandera he respects the animals he kills and believes in hunting as conservation.

“It’s a fascinating, complex nuanced issue. And I think people sometimes kind of lose sight of that,” says Lavandera.

The Safari Club auction last January set off a flurry of arguments on all sides of the issue. Knowlton said he and his family received death threats. But there were heartfelt pleas to stop the hunt too, including one from a Kenyan game warden that went viral.

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.