Winner of auction to hunt endangered African rhino fears for his safety
The Associated Press
Published Thursday, January 16, 2014 1:18PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 16, 2014 3:03PM EST
DALLAS -- A U.S. man who paid $350,000 for the right to hunt an endangered African black rhino said he's had to hire full-time security due to death threats after his name was leaked onto the Internet.
Corey Knowlton told Dallas television stations WFAA and KTVT that he won last week's Dallas Safari Club auction to hunt a black rhino in the African nation of Namibia. The club says the permit was auctioned to raise money for efforts to protect and conserve the species.
An estimated 4,000 black rhinos remain in the wild, and the auction drew critics who said all members of an endangered species deserve protection.
"I'm a hunter," Knowlton told WFAA. "I want to experience a black rhino. I want to be intimately involved with a black rhino. If I go over there and shoot it or not shoot it, it's beyond the point."
Knowlton lives in Royse City, about 30 miles (48 kilometres) outside Dallas, and leads international hunting trips for a Virginia-based company, The Hunting Consortium.
He told KTVT that threats made to organizers before the auction led the Safari Club to contact him and see if he would bid. Knowlton and a silent partner raised the money to make the bid, he said.
His name was posted on Facebook and then picked up by websites that publicized his involvement in the auction. He told KTVT that since then, he's feared for his family's safety.
"They're wanting to kill me," he said. "They're wanting to kill my children. They're wanting to skin us alive."
The club says the Namibian rhino in question is older, male and nonbreeding -- and that the animal was likely to be targeted for removal anyway because it was becoming aggressive.
Knowlton said he believed the hunt would be managed well and that the money would go to save rhinos in the end.
Of critics who had written thousands of comments on his Facebook page and online, Knowlton said: "They don't know who I am. They don't know what I'm about. They don't even understand the process."
Knowlton did not return phone and email messages from The Associated Press.