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Hunting for the Hunter

Controversial black rhino hunt goes for $350,000, but who is the real winner?

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Black Rhino
The Dallas Safari Club auctioned off a black rhino hunt to the tune of $350,000. Photo courtesy of National Geographic

The Dallas Safari Club carried through with its controversial auction of a hunt for an endangered African black rhino on Saturday, to the tune of $350,000. The auction, which took place at a closed-door dinner at the Dallas Convention Center, brought in considerably less than the $1 million that was being predicted but more than the previous record of $223,000 for a similar hunt.

The Safari Club, which obtained the hard-to-get hunting permit from the Namibian government, justified the auction by claiming that all proceeds will go toward conservation. But the event was criticized by animal advocates and met by about 40 protestors, some coming in from places outside Dallas, according to CBS.

More than one party has suggested that Knowlton is not the true bidder, but instead made the purchase on behalf of a behind-the-scenes millionaire who wants to stay out of the public eye.

The big question is, who won the bid? A spokesman for the Dallas Safari Club declined to name the buyer. But a tweet from Tom Opre, a hunter who attended the event, identified the bidder as Corey Knowlton, a hunting "expert" and tour conductor who resides in Royse City, Texas.

Knowlton did not respond to inquiries about his role in the auction, but his "public figure" Facebook page would seem to confirm his involvement. It's being deluged by angry comments from around the world, calling him an assortment of names and petitioning him to stay out of Africa entirely.

But more than one party has suggested, off the record, that Knowlton is not the true bidder, but instead made the purchase on behalf of a behind-the-scenes millionaire who wants to stay out of the public eye.

Among the comments on his page are some that allude to his "fronting" for a silent partner. One commenter who asked not to be identified wrote that "we are dealing with some very wealthy powerful pro-hunting people that know what they are doing. They know how to work the public and they know how to dupe fellow hunters."

Knowlton does appear on hunting TV shows, but Jim Shockey's The Professionals is not exactly big-time. His personal Facebook page shows him graduating from the "school of hard knocks."

In addition to having run a hunting company called Global Hunting Resources, his other business ventures have included septic and concrete companies. A native of Forney, Knowlton doesn't seem to have the kind of master-of-the-universe breeding — or the bankroll — that accompanies this kind of bid.

Local big-game hunters who fit the profile include Jack Brittingham, whose Facebook photo gallery shows a collection of utterly depressing large dead kills, and Ross Perot Jr., whose taste for rhino-hunting provoked controversy in 2009 when he went on a rhino hunt and grazed the animal, then tried to demand that South Africa give him the trophy head anyway.

Jeff Gaisford, a wildlife advocate, said at the time, "These animals are not difficult to hunt. They are very placid; it's a bit like shooting a cow in a field. But anyone can duff a shot. Maybe he was nipped by a bee as he pulled the trigger or wet his pants, who knows?"

Below is a video of the Dallas Safari Club auction as the winning bid was made.

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