Black Rhino Import Permits from Namibia

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

Why is the Service issuing permits for the import of a black rhino sport-hunted trophy?
What criteria must be met for the Service to issue a permit for the import of a black rhino hunting trophy from Namibia?
What actions has Namibia taken to protect its rhino population from the poaching crisis that is occurring in other parts of Africa?
How does the hunting of male black rhinos enhance the survival of a population?
What measures are in place to ensure that hunting trophies won’t enter into illegal trade?
What protections are afforded to foreign species under the ESA?
What protections are afforded to species that are listed in Appendix I of CITES?
Does the Service support trophy hunting as a conservation tool?




Q: Why is the Service issuing permits for the import of a black rhino sport-hunted trophy?

A: By law, we cannot and will not allow trophies of certain protected species into the United States that were hunted in any nation whose conservation program fails to meet high standards for transparency, scientific management and effectiveness. If we have concerns about a country’s management program or a species’ population status, we will not issue permits.

Namibia implements a science-based management strategy for black rhinos that outlines clear goals and objectives for conservation of the country’s black rhino population. As part of this strategy, Namibia authorizes an annual harvest of up to five male black rhinos. The removal of limited numbers of males has been shown to stimulate population growth in some areas. Removing specific individuals from a population can result in reduced male fighting, shorter calving intervals, and reduced juvenile mortality. All known black rhinos in Namibia are ear-notched to assist in identification and monitoring. This ear-notching system makes it possible for the Namibian government to select specific individuals for culling based on age, reproductive status and other factors that may contribute to the overall health of the population.

Further, the Namibian government requires a significant contribution to the Game Products Trust Fund (GPTF) for any sport hunting of black rhino to ensure revenue is directed toward conservation. Money accrued from trophy hunting of black rhinos has been used to fund annual black rhino counts, improve rhino crime investigation and prosecution, and ensure the traceability of all rhino horn owned by Namibia.

Q: What criteria must be met for the Service to issue a permit for the import of a black rhino hunting trophy from Namibia?

A: The black rhino is listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). Before an import permit can be issued for a CITES Appendix-I species, the Service must determine that the import will not be detrimental to the survival of the species. For a species classified as endangered under the ESA, the Service must determine that allowing the import will enhance the species’ survival.. To make these findings, the Service looks at the biology and overall management program for the species. Factors we consider include: the biological needs of the species, possible threats to populations, current population estimates, management plans, legal protection (for sport-hunted trophies this includes hunting regulations and any applicable quotas), local community involvement and, if any funds are generated by the import, how funds are used for conservation. Obtaining the information on a country’s management program may entail a lengthy consultative process between the country of export and the Service.

Q: What actions has Namibia taken to protect its rhino population from the poaching crisis that is occurring in other parts of Africa?

A: Recently, the government and other rhino custodians in the country have taken aggressive, ambitious steps to combat poaching, including changing patrol patterns, escalating law enforcement presence and capabilities in sites at risk, and proactively de-horning rhinos in insecure areas. Now more than ever, it is vitally important for Namibia to safeguard its rhino population by boosting security in communal lands and protected areas – efforts that will require significant funding.

Q: How does the hunting of male black rhinos enhance the survival of a population?

A: Black rhinos are very territorial. The removal of post-reproductive males or males whose genes are already well represented in the population can reduce competition with younger bulls, potentially providing those younger bulls with a greater opportunity to reproduce, enhancing the survivability of the overall population.

Q: What measures are in place to ensure that hunting trophies won’t enter into illegal trade?

A: In the United States, CITES-implementing regulations (50 CFR 23.55) clearly state that an Appendix I sport-hunted trophy may only be used for non-commercial purposes. Selling such a trophy after import constitutes a violation of the ESA. Sale in interstate or foreign commerce would violate the wildlife trafficking provisions of the Lacey Act. ESA violations carry a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine; conviction under the Lacey Act is punishable by a prison term of up to five years and a $250,000 fine. Furthermore, the CITES requirements for black rhino trophies require that all parts of the trophy be marked with identifying information; these requirements are incorporated into the U.S. CITES regulations.

Q: What protections are afforded to foreign species under the ESA?

A: In general, the ESA prohibits the import, export, interstate commerce or foreign commerce of any listed species, including its parts or products, without a permit. The “take” prohibition, including harassment, applies within the United States or on the high seas. (Generally accepted animal husbandry practices, such as veterinarian care and other activities outlined in the Service definition of “harassment”, are not considered take.)

Q: What protections are afforded to species that are listed in Appendix I of CITES?

A: In general, the ESA prohibits the import, export, interstate commerce or foreign commerce of any listed species, including its parts or products, without a permit. The “take” prohibition, including harassment, applies within the United States or on the high seas. (Generally accepted animal husbandry practices, such as veterinarian care and other activities outlined in the Service definition of “harassment”, are not considered take.)

Q: Does the Service support trophy hunting as a conservation tool?

A: Here in North America, trophy game hunting has led to the restoration of elk, moose and a number of other species. As the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and other international wildlife management and conservation organizations recognize, well-managed wildlife programs that include limited, sustainable sport hunting can and have provided significant long-term benefits to the populations of many species. Regulated waterfowl hunting and upland game bird hunting have helped preserve millions of acres of habitat that benefits not only the game species, but a host of native wildlife, including threatened and endangered species. U.S. hunters – the vast majority of whom strongly support sustainable game management – make up a significant share of foreign hunters who book trophy hunts in Africa, Asia and elsewhere. That gives us a powerful tool to support countries managing wildlife populations in a sustainable manner – and other nations a strong incentive to strengthen their management programs.

By law, we cannot and will not allow trophies of certain protected species into the United States that were hunted in any nation whose conservation program fails to meet high standards for transparency, scientific management and effectiveness. If we have concerns about a country’s management program or a species’ population status, we will not issue permits.

The Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Fund is working to restore rhino and tiger populations to healthy numbers in the wild. Learn more.
Click here for details on Operation Crash, a nationwide undercover investigation of illegal trafficking in rhinoceros horn.