US black rhino hunter Corey Knowlton faces death threats

Corey Knowlton on WFAA TV (16 Jan 201$) Corey Knowlton said he would target a rhino endangering the rest of the herd

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A Texas hunter who won an auction to hunt and kill an endangered black rhino in Namibia has said he has received death threats from animal lovers.

Corey Knowlton bid $350,000 (£212,000) for a permit auctioned by the Dallas Safari Club, which said it would help fund future conservation.

Namibia is home to some 1,500 black rhino, a third of the world's total.

'Scientific process'

Mr Knowlton said his name had been posted on Facebook and threats had been made to harm both him and his children.

He said he had been speaking to the FBI about protecting his family. A number of people posted abuse on his Facebook page, calling him "cruel" and a "barbarian".

An endangered east African black rhinoceros and her young one walk in Tanzania's Serengeti park (file photo) Fewer than 5,000 black rhino remain in the wild, with an estimated 1,500 in Namibia

But he said those criticising him had failed to understand that the idea behind the hunt was to target an old, non-breeding male rhino that was endangering the rest of the herd.

"We're just not going in there and saying 'hey we're on a rhino hunt and, here, have a beer we're going to find a rhino,'" he told ABC TV affiliate WFAA in Dallas.

"No, it is a scientific process and we're going to make sure we get the ones that are causing the most problem."

Namibia issues three hunting permits per year, and this is the first time an auction has been held outside the southern African nation.

However, tens of thousands of people signed online petitions against the auction, and animal rights groups condemned as "perverse" claims that the hunt was really about conservation.

The money raised from the 11 January auction will go to the Namibian government and will be earmarked for conservation projects, according to the Dallas Safari Club.

"It takes money for these animals to exist. A lot of people don't recognise that," club executive Ben Carter told NPR radio.

Experts say that growing demand for rhino horn in Asia is driving up instances of poaching.

It is being fuelled by the belief in countries like China and Vietnam that powdered rhino horn has medicinal powers and can impact diseases like cancer. Horns can sell for around $65,000 a kilogram.

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