For Immediate Release
April 17, 2015
Jenni Barnes, staff attorney, FoA’s Wildlife Law Program 720.949.7791;
Mike Harris, Director, Wildlife Law Program; 720.949.7791;





FoA files lawsuit against USFWS for issuing permits to allow importation of black rhino trophies

Corey Knowlton, the hunter who paid the Dallas Safari Club $350,000 last year to kill an endangered black rhino in Namibia, and Michael Luzich, who already slaughtered a black rhino there in 2013, may think it’s ok to kill rhinos to save them, but Friends of Animals (FoA) couldn’t disagree more with that insane school of thought. That’s why FoA filed a lawsuit April 17 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York against Dan Ashe, the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel, for violating the Endangered Species Act when they issued permits to these hunters so they can bring their sickening trophies back to the United States.

“If these applicants were seeking to take the rhino because of the ornamental or medicinal use of its horn, would USFWS issue such a permit?” said Mike Harris, director of FoA’s Wildlife Law Program. “No way, and for good reason—it would only legitimize the use of rhino horns and stimulate demand. But exactly what is the difference here? The killing of a rhino to display it as a trophy does not add worth to, or enhance, the survivability of the ecosystem, the species being killed or for that matter human existence. It is simply an outdated cultural use of the animal, the same as using its horn as a knife handle or as an alleged medicine.”

The issuance of these permits just continues to put a price on the black rhinos head and is an affront to the Endangered Species Act. There is increasing evidence that sport-hunting undermines protection of these animals by, among other things, stimulating demand for them in both the legal and illegal (black) markets for their carcasses and parts. 

“Recognizing the importance of the ESA’s take prohibitions, Congress provided for only two narrow exceptions in importing endangered species—for scientific purposes or to enhance the propagation of the affected species,” Harris said.

“Neither Mr. Knowlton nor Mr. Luzich submitted any information—such as resumes or other credential—to demonstrate they have legitimate intention to protect black rhinos in the wild or contribute to the species recovery. At most their applications simply provide that money spent obtaining the permits will be paid to the Namibian Game Products Trust Funds. But the ESA does not provide for making payment for the taking of an endangered species in lieu of demonstrating that an ESA Section 10 permit is necessary to conserve the species.”