Michigan trophy hunter gets OK to import body of rare black rhino

The numbers of black rhinos have been increasing in recent years with stricter conservation management, but dozens are still illegally poached each year for their horns, which are sold on the black market for use in traditional Chinese medicine and as a status symbol. (Photo via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration says it will issue a permit to a Michigan trophy hunter to import the skin, skull and horns from a rare black rhinoceros he shot in Africa.

Documents show Chris D. Peyerk of Shelby Township, Michigan, applied last year for the permit required by the 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 International Union for Conservation of Nature lists black rhinos as a critically endangered species, with about 5,500 remaining in the wild. Nearly half of those are in Namibia, which is allowed under international convention to permit five male rhinos a year to be legally killed by hunters.

The specific subspecies Peyrek listed on his application, the south-western black rhinoceros, is listed as “vulnerable” by the IUCN, meaning it is at less threat of extinction than the rest of the species as a whole.

Peyerk did not respond to a phone message seeking comment. He is president of Dan’s Excavating Inc., a large construction contractor in Michigan.

The numbers of black rhinos have been increasing in recent years with stricter conservation management, but dozens are still illegally poached each year for their horns, which are sold on the black market for use in traditional Chinese medicine and as a status symbol. The horns are composed largely of the protein keratin, also the chief component in hair and fingernails.

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. He is also a past president of Safari Club International, a trophy hunting group that has lobbied the Trump administration to loosen import restrictions on endangered big game animals.

The $400,000 paid by Peyrek 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.

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