Shelby Township man to bring body of endangered rhino he shot to Michigan

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published September 16, 2019

 A photo provided by the Humane Society of the United States shows a black rhino in the wild.

A photo provided by the Humane Society of the United States shows a black rhino in the wild.

Photo by Bob Koons/The HSUS

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP — A Shelby Township resident was recently approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to import to Michigan a critically endangered black rhino that he shot in Africa.

Chris Peyerk, of Shelby Township, was approved to import the body of the rhino to Michigan after paying to hunt it.

The hunt took place on May 22, 2018, in Mangetti National Park, Okavango District, Namibia.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists black rhinos as a critically endangered species, with about 5,500 remaining in the wild. About 2,000 are in Namibia, which is allowed to permit five male rhinos a year to be killed legally by hunters under international convention.

In 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued its first critically endangered black rhino trophy import permit in 33 years. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued permits for six applications.

In Namibia, poaching reportedly is high compared to a decade ago.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, poaching of rhinos increased from zero in 2006-2008 to 90 in 2015, and the group said that the vast majority of rhinos poached in Namibia between 2014 and 2016 were black rhinos.

Peyerk applied last year for the permit required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to import animals protected under the Endangered Species Act. Peyerk paid $400,000 to an anti-poaching program to receive permission to hunt the male rhino bull inside a Namibian national park in May 2018.

The $400,000 paid by Peyerk went to a trust fund set up by the Namibian government for wildlife management, conservation, rural development and other activities aimed at promoting the coexistence of humans and wildlife.

Laury Marshall, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said in an email that the regulated hunting can be beneficial to conservation of the rhino population.

“Legal, well-regulated hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit the conservation of certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation,” Marshall said.

Kitty Block, the president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States and the CEO of Humane Society International, released a statement opposing the import.

“Under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, it is illegal to import trophies of endangered species unless such action is determined to enhance the propagation or survival of the species. Given the increasingly precarious status of black rhinos and the fact that trophy hunting itself constitutes a threat to the species, this vanity import fails to meet that standard.

“We urge our federal government to end this pay-to-slay scheme that delivers critically endangered rhino trophies to wealthy Americans while dealing a devastating blow to rhino conservation. With fewer than 2,000 black rhinos left in Namibia — and with rhino poaching on the rise — now is the time to ensure that every living black rhino remains safe in the wild.

“While we cannot turn back the clock to save this animal, the administration can stop the U.S. from further contributing to the demise of this species by refusing future import permits of black rhino trophies. Black rhinos must be off limits to trophy hunters,” Block said.

Records show Peyerk was represented in his effort to get a rhino permit by John J. Jackson III, a Louisiana attorney who provides free legal assistance to trophy hunters through a nonprofit group called Conservation Force.

Conservation Force submitted the permit application on behalf of Peyerk. It took more than a year to get the permit to import the rhino.

Peyerk referred questions to his attorney.

“Just like Ducks Unlimited in Washington, the hunting community sees Chris as a conservation hero, as a person who is paying for way more than the amount (required) to generate revenue to solve a problem. The problem is poaching. His money went to anti-poaching, and he paid way over that, and it went to rhino conservation,” Jackson said.

He said they had to show proof of conservation before getting the permit.

“This particular population was down-listed by IUCN because its population increased and no one thought it was endangered 20 years ago, and there’s a quota of five to focus on the elimination of bad bulls, which are post-reproductive and kill other bulls in fights. Most bulls usually die in fights and kill calves and other bulls and eliminate other young males that will be killed by the fighter. This one needed to be eliminated. We needed to prove it in order to do it.”

Jackson said the program is designed by experts in the field, and the money will go to further conservation efforts.

“The program is designed by experts of the Fish and Wildlife Service in the species. Chris spends his good money to a good cause. There were two to three (black rhinos) allowed in this administration, and about two in the last.

“We are so thankful it’s a local resident that stepped up to this very successful program viewed by conservation specialists as a conservation success. We owe him (a) great debt,” said Jackson.

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