The Trump administration announced on Friday that it would allow a trophy hunter in Michigan to import the remains of a rare black rhino who shot himself in Africa, the Associated Press reported.
Last year, Chris D. Peyerk of Shelby submitted an application for a permit required by the Fish and Wildlife Service to import animals protected under the Endangered Species Act, documents revealed. Peyerk, president of a large construction contracting company, paid $ 400,000 for a male, southwestern black rhino poaching program in Namibia National Park in May 2018.
Records show Peyer hired John J. Jackson III – a lawyer in Louisiana who advises the Fish and Wildlife Service and was appointed to the International Wildlife Conservation Council last year – to represent him in his efforts to get a permit. The latter agency was created under the Federal Advisory Committee Act at the request of then Home Secretary Ryan Zinke, "to raise awareness about the conservation and economic benefits of US citizens traveling to foreign countries to engage in hunting."
"We create and support on-site programs that enhance the survival of a particular species," Peyer told the Associated Press when asked if there was a conflict of interest between his roles at the two federal agencies. "Our mission is to restore the species population, not the hunter's private interest."
The fee Peyer reportedly went to a trust fund created by the Namibian government to promote the coexistence of humans and wildlife animals. However, the Humane Society has criticized the Trump administration's recent decision to allow it to import rhino skin, horns and skulls.
"We call on our federal government to end this pay-for-kill scheme that delivers critically endangered rhino trophies to affluent Americans while striking a blow to protect rhinos," said Kitty Block, head of the United States Humane Society and an international society for humane society. "Until we can turn the clock back to save this animal, the administration may stop the United States from contributing further to the destruction of this species by refusing future permits to import black rhino trophies."
Black Rhinoceros numbers approximately 5500 and is considered a critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. About half of the herbivorous mammals live in Namibia, allowing only five male rhinos to be legally hunted annually by hunters, the Associated Press notes.
In recent years, the population of the black rhino has been steadily increasing, thanks in part to strict conservation management. In light of this growth, both the Obama and Trump administrations have issued permits for the import of black rhinos. Three permits were granted during Obama's term. The Trump administration has issued two.