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Convention Draws Critics & Supporters Of Dallas Rhino Hunt Auction

DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - The auction of a black rhino hunt in Africa has led to death threats here in North Texas.  The FBI confirms it is investigating threats against members of the Dallas Safari Club, which opened a weekend hunting convention Thursday.

The gathering is billed as The Greatest Hunters Convention on the Planet.  But some members of the Dallas Safari Club have themselves become targets -- of death threats, including executive director Ben Carter.  "Yes, I have," he acknowledged, "and we've turned that over to the authorities and they're handling it from here on out."

Carter believes critics of the auction are misguided. While the black rhino is endangered in Africa, Carter claims the species is making a comeback in Namibia through commercial hunting conservation efforts. He also says the estimated $1,000,000 raised from the upcoming auction will help fight poaching.

The Namibian government guides the hunt and picks the animals -- ones they say are aggressive, aging bulls past breeding age.  Carter claims the targeted bulls are dangerous to the herd. "They actually will kill younger breeding class bulls and even cows and calves."

Namibia has a greater landmass than Texas but a population of only about two million people.

RHINO - Rhinoceros
A wild male black rhino is pictured. (credit: Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images)

Marina Lamprecht is a trophy hunt outfitter in Namibia who is attending the convention here in North Texas.  She says the government owns all the country's rhinos, so the money will help protect and grow its herds.  "In Namibia we have found that the single greatest conservationist tool that we have is trophy hunting, because through trophy hunting we have given our wildlife a value far greater than their meat.  And therefore local communities as well as landlords are taking care of their wildlife."

Lamprecht says after the kill the entire bull will be used, and meat will help feed the people of Namibia.

But both the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Animal Legal Defense Fund denounced the auction, saying it is not conservation, but rather a "sad joke."   They further claim, in part, "Although the group [Dallas Safari Club] claims its primary intent is conservation of the critically endangered black rhino, fundraising proceeds from the Convention consistently go towards hunting and political advocacy of hunting interests."

John Banovich claims to have a foot in both worlds.  "As an artist I have the ability to reach far left and far right," he says, adding, "So I sometimes get pulled left and pulled right, get attacked from the left and get attacked from the right."

As a wildlife artist Banovich hates to see the loss of the majestic animals he paints.  But he believes commercialized hunts can save even endangered species.  "In modern management (by modern he means anything after the 1950s), wildlife management in modern times, there's never been a case of a species disappearing from the landscape through sport hunting.  Ever."

The black rhino auction is set for Saturday at the Dallas Convention Center.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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