Texas hunter Corey Knowlton has said he has received death threats and has hired full-time security after being identified as the winner of an auction to shoot and kill an endangered black rhino in Namibia.
Knowlton paid $350,000 (£214,119) at the Dallas Safari Club sponsored auction for the licence but faced a storm of fierce criticism from animal rights campaigners and wildlife groups.
He was named by fellow hunter Tom Opre as the man who placed the winning bid earlier this week. He said his Facebook page has since been flooded with threats to hurt and kill him and his family.
He told KTVT that since then, he’s feared for his family’s safety. “They’re wanting to kill me,” he said. “They’re wanting to kill my children. They’re wanting to skin us alive.”
“I’m a hunter,” Knowlton told WFAA. “I want to experience a black rhino. I want to be intimately involved with a black rhino. If I go over there and shoot it or not shoot it, it’s beyond the point.
“They don’t know who I am. They don’t know what I’m about. They don’t even understand the process.”
Knowlton, of Royse City said threats had been made to organisers before the auction, which led to the Safari Club asking him if he would bid. He and a silent partner then raised the money to make the bid, he said.
Ben Carter, executive director of the Safari Club, has defended the auction.
He argued the rhino to be hunted is old, male and non-breeding and is likely to be targeted for removal anyway because it was becoming aggressive and threatening other wildlife.
But the auction was condemned by wildlife and animal rights groups, and the FBI earlier this week said it was investigating death threats against members of the club.
Knowlton defended his actions on his Facebook page earlier this week. He wrote: “Thank you all for your comments about conservation and the current situation regarding the Black Rhino.
“I am considering all sides and concerns involved in this unique situation. Please don't rush to judgment with emotionally driven criticism towards individuals on either sides of this issue.
“I deeply care about all of the inhabitants of this planet and I am looking forward to more educated discussion regarding the ongoing conservation effort for the Black Rhino.”