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The Rhino Hunter

Monday, September 07, 2015 - 06:01 PM

(Image Credit: Andrea Mongia)

Back in 2014, Corey Knowlton paid $350,000 for a hunting trip to Namibia to shoot and kill an endangered species.  He’s a professional hunter, who guides hunts all around the world, so going to Africa would be nothing new.  The target on the other hand would be. And so too, he quickly found, would be the attention. 

This episode, producer Simon Adler follows Corey as he dodges death threats and prepares to pull the trigger.  Along the way we stop to talk with Namibian hunters and government officials, American activists, and someone who's been here before - Kenya’s former Director of Wildlife, Richard Leakey.   All the while, we try to uncover what conservation really means in the 21st century.

Reported & produced by Simon Adler with production help from Matthew Kielty.

Special thanks to Chris Weaver, Ian Wallace, Mark Barrow, the Lindstrom family, and everyone at the Aru Game Lodge in Namibia.

Thanks also to Sarah Fogel, Ray Crow, Barbara Clucus, Diogo Veríssimo



Corey Knowlton and Richard Leakey


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Comments [243]

Rose from London- England

what upset me the most while listening to this podcast was the fact that people who claim to be against hunting and animal cruelty are so so so horrible to human beings to the extend of threatening them to throw their children into a woodchipper? I mean really?? does that make you any better than the animal hunter?

Jan. 25 2018 08:15 AM

So I can see how this story painted a picture in which there are benefits (whether the means justify the ends or not), but I would like to point out that this is a very specific case. A lot of trophy hunting doesn't happen like this (in which someone was allowed to hunt an animal that posed a threat to the rest of its community). Think of Cecil the Lion - he wasn't hurting other lions, and he actually brought in a lot of revenue through tourism because he was so used to people that he got close to safaris (without posing a threat) and people came from all over to photograph him. Regular trophy hunting and what happened in this story are not exactly the same things, and the arguments that apply to this case wouldn't apply to all cases.

Nov. 20 2017 03:23 PM
Danny from North Carolina

A serious comment to those that think a 2000-3000 lb animal is going to go down after one shot. Seriously people have lived through more than four shots. He wanted to ensure the animal died quickly as to lead to no undue suffering. Thats why he fired four times. Stop harassing a man for his beleive that he is helping the conservation community. The next time you pay $350,000 to help conservation efforts you can talk all you want.

Nov. 05 2017 12:45 PM
Pam Obriot from Brighton, Michigan

I know I listened to this late (October 24th, 2017), but I want to know who wants the Rhino horns and for what? Why don't we go after the users? Most people know about Ivory and don't buy it anymore. We need to do the same for Rhino horns.

Oct. 25 2017 05:38 PM
Robert Mitchell from Washington

When he said canine teeth are not for eating salad, the hunter ignored pandas who choose bamboo despite having a carnivorous digestive system. We get to define ourselves.

Aug. 29 2017 10:34 PM
Larry from Brussels

I found it very disturbing to listen to a hunter in the act of killing an animal - especially such an inept hunter who had to fire four times to finish off his prey.

Aug. 27 2017 07:58 PM
Coby from Oregon

Just heard this show. Its funny , i was thinking about if i still have the passion to hunt and i turned this on while driving to Cabelas. Probably one of the best news pieces i have heard in years. It was blunt but very fair to the hunters/organizers of the pay to play hunts. I didnt realize how much of that money went back into conservation. It helped me to realize that hunting is a natural desire and it actually helps us be closer to nature and understand our relationship to it. Killing is not pleasant . Even a decent hunter will tell you that but hunting itself is within us. Its a true evolutionary connection to our past...i could go on but this was very very well done. I was riveted the whole time. This is what real journalism is. Cnn and fox could learn a thing or two from this. Even if someone didnt like the subject matter , it was very well done !

Aug. 27 2017 07:26 PM

How do people think wild animals die in nature? People go on and on about how cruel it is to shoot an animal. Do they not realize that NEARLY EVERY wild animal dies from: starvation, being eaten alive, disease, drowning, or some combination of those. Passing away peacefully in their sleep at a ripe old age doesn't really happen in nature.

Aug. 26 2017 06:13 PM
Matt from Hawaii

I've never yelled at my radio before today, much less at NPR, until I heard the insane and immoral logic spewed by the wealthy hunter who suggested the only value these endangered animals have is economic.

Nature is not here "for us", that is to say, its value is not instrumental. The value of these species is inherent. He asked for some alternative plan for saving these animals, we've got one, its called basic morality.

If he honestly cared about protecting the species (which was a lie, just listen to how exuberant he was when he finally got to kill an endangered species), then he would simply donate the money instead of paying the money for the chance to shoot it. That irrefutable logic alone reveals the brazen lie he tells himself and told all of us.

Cowardly men like him have lost their humanity because they cannot see value in lives other than their own. And the final insult to sit and eat it, like that somehow makes it ok is pathetic. You didn't kill it to eat it, any other meal on the planet would suffice but your appetite for death - especially of an endangered species - is something far beyond repugnant and I can only hope that the universe meets out justice in some way.

Aug. 26 2017 05:17 PM
Christian from Alabama

I'm a hunter. I come from a family of hunters. However, I'm always skeptical about the sustainable use practice when it comes to big game and endangered species. This episode did a wonderful job of acknowledging the practicality of Knowlton's argument (conservation programs need money and rich hunters will pay exuberant amounts) while challenging it both morally and economically. Don't think the episode changed my opinion about hunting endangered species, but it did bring the reality of the hunt and the process by which one of these animals is selected for harvest to a broad audience that (if the comments are any indication) don't have those experiences.

Aug. 26 2017 02:22 PM
Andre Almeida from Lisbon, Portugal

"You don't have those canine teeth for eating salad" .. says the big scary predator that needed 4 rifle shots to kill the rhino

Aug. 11 2017 09:05 PM
Sean from South Africa

How much of the money actually goes towards protecting the animal and how much into the pockets of the government officials? This is NOT sustainable and this big man crying on the show bias, Killing can never be justified. You don't simply throw money at something and call yourself a conservationist. You my friend are a canned hunting enthusiast.

Jun. 14 2017 03:10 AM
sam from uk

I remember when this story came out in the news, i strongly disagreed with hunting and thought that Corey was a massive douche! But hearing the back story and discovering that this huge amount of cash was paid to the conservation….is a huge eye opener. Good job radio lab!

Dec. 07 2016 12:06 AM
Pippa from NYC

I've been a radio lab supporter for many years and I do see the value in this controversial episode but as someone who spent time in Africa as a child with family friends, who were close with the Leakeys and other conservationists, like the tragic Joan Root. All I can say is the African plains were naturally able to regulate themselves before colonization. Since then there has been so much evidence about how hunting has rendered the African landscape almost empty and this theory, that hunting is still continuing to support what ever frugal numbers of animals are left, by getting rich, white privileged tourists to do the very thing that destroyed Africa to begin with, just doesn't solve the issue for me. It is evident they have the money behind them to pay for conservation without bringing a trophy home. If the park needs to control the number of bull rhinos, they should shoot them without making a profit because it does send out a contradictory message. These modern "hunters" need to realize it is not the 20th century and the game is not plentiful. We now live in a time where we are over populated and these animals are going extinct because there is not enough space or education to protect them for future generations. My grandfather used to get tiger skins from my great uncles when Britain ruled Ceylon. My grandmother gave them away because she felt it was wrong having them. My sister used to practice fox hunting until it became illegal and they still have the quorn hunt without the fox. My father shoots blanks now instead of pheasants... I think hunting as we know it, has a lot of room to grow and adapt to the current times.

Aug. 20 2016 08:56 PM
Simone Gorny from Portugal

Great story, but you SHOULD warn the listeners before the recording where Simon Adler witnessed the swedish guy killing that animal. Hearing about how it happened, like how Corey killed the black rhino, is one thing, listening to it in real time is quite another. It was to graphic for me, as it might have been for other people. Give them the chance to skip it.

Jun. 05 2016 07:23 AM

I think the folks that claim, "well he didn't really have to kill the rhino, he should have just donated the money," are missing the whole point. By keeping the tradition of hunting and conservation alive, sportsmen are serving to perpetuate a model that has proven successful for hundreds of year to benefit not only wildlife, but humans as well.

Here is the state of Maine, one our largest job creators in the most rural parts of the state is the hunting industry. We also have a large contingency of folks that rely on wild game to supplement their food.

May. 22 2016 11:56 AM
Patrick Conaway from Ft Mitchell, KY

A really well done story. Thank you Radiolab for taking such a sensational subject past the hot-button headline to explain why people choose to do what seems at first to be inexplicable.

May. 12 2016 06:33 PM
veryme from Portland, OR

Some of the MOST environmentally conscious people I know are hunters. Often they are the reason we have the vast open lands preserved and continued to be maintained by our government. A fly fishermen wants to stand in a clear stream in the middle of Montana, so he will fight to keep it clean, pure and beautiful. I will also say, I absolutely do not want to personally go hunting, but I will not tell someone else that they cannot responsibly hunt or fish.

Apr. 13 2016 03:57 PM
Marie from Harrisburg, PA

If you a hunter wants excitement - why not do team up with this group that is transporting the rhinos to Australia were they won't be hunted and/or poached?
I think getting a rhino on a plane is much more risky then trying to hunt/shoot one. And the pictures will be much better.

Mar. 31 2016 09:34 AM
Elizabeth from Chicago

This episode really made me think! I consider myself an environmentalist and a liberal, and although I grew up around guns I have always thought the idea that hunters help the species they kill to be beyond ridiculous. I rolled my eyes when the hunters at that convention said, "Without hunters there would be no animals."

That said, I found Mr. Knowlton very articulate and convincing. I've never heard the argument from his perspective and I view the entire issue differently now. Thank you for presenting that point of view in a way that got me to think instead of dismissing it as empty rhetoric.

Mar. 31 2016 08:13 AM
Cathoryn from The Future

...Corey Knowlton's rationale kind of made sense to me + he sounds really HOT !

P.S. (to Mrs. Knowlton if she accidentally reads this) I'm just trying to be funny. Don't hurt me.

Mar. 30 2016 05:36 PM
Jim from Ojai

This was a provocative episode and it made me think. But I can't help wonder why you never addressed the need to kill these animals. When humans kill other humans for fun we call them psychopaths and remove them from society. When humans kill endangered animals for fun (and conservation, wink wink) they call themselves sportsmen. What psychopathy makes them enjoy killing these animals? How about exploring that, rather than the tender feelings of a big-game hunter? Now *that's* an episode I'd like to hear.

Mar. 30 2016 02:19 PM

Humans have a population issue, should we manage it the same way we manage other species? And by Cory's logic any human male showing aggression should be put down as a service to our species. All male humans who are potentially dangerous to other males or females should be put down....
There is a way to start having an economy that places value on life rather than death -- and no, this isn't unrealistic or a fantasy.
And Cory, you could have just donated the money -- if you just donate money to land for animals instead of paying to murder them, that would actually make you a hero. And if we stopped mining, paving, destroying wildlife habitat, we wouldn't have a wildlife problem!
And to the Swedish man who gets "good feelings" from killing - you are what's known as a psychopathic killer. This whole episode made me angry and I try to feel nothing but compassion -- it's really hard to feel compassion for people who delight so much in ending the life of an innocent creature, oblivious that there's a "sport" going on and are subject to a legitimized murder. Shame on everyone involved. We don't deserve to live among animals.

Mar. 28 2016 10:27 AM
Travis kasner from Portland Oregon

God I love this guy, a guy who has actually seen the world, he actually knows who he is and hes tring, with in the frame work of HIS life and experience to make a positive impact in the world. He is right, humans ARE hunters as well as that we ARE a part of nature. I have traveled the world since I was twenty, lived in the third for over three years, i have seen a lot of the mismanagment, lack of money and the lack of will other parts of the world have when it comes to conservation. I too love animals and have always wanted the world to treat them better. That being said I hate hunting, never liked killing animals and don't like eating meet. I have been a vegan for more than half my life, over 20 years and in the frame work of who I am this is what I'm able to do to have a positive difference, it's not much but we do what we can. And to that Cory is doing FAR more than I ever have and I'll just bet far more than you too and you can tell this guy truely cares, a TRUE human being and so refreshing to hear about. Bravo!!

Mar. 26 2016 10:09 PM
Sandy from Delaware

It's impossible for me to believe killing these animals have anything to do with conservation. I think it is just a means of legitimizing and endorsing wealthy human's "right" to hunt and kill animals.

Mar. 26 2016 05:14 PM
Rachel from Nebraska

That was an amazing story! Well told!

Mar. 03 2016 10:31 AM
Harbinger1 from Grand Terrace CA

Wow, I was really upset with the stupid hunter from Sweden who took 4 shots to bring down a water buffalo! I believe that is the animal he finally brought down. I could have gone back and listened to it again to clarify, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. These may not be humans, but they are living, breathing animals (the same as us) who feel pain and suffering every bit as much as we do. I wanted to grab the rifle through the radio and shoot the guy in the foot, and ask him "how does that feel, you F$*&+@ moron?"
This animal was killed not for food, not because the man needed the hide for warmth, but for the sheer fun of killing an animal. Just disgusting. The whole idea of killing animals to save them, just seems like a justification and nothing more for killing wild animals. All I can do is hope there is a special place in hell for these so called "hunters."

Feb. 24 2016 03:16 PM
Charles dela Cruz from The Philippines

The Co-Optional Podcast sent me here, and I've never been so thankful for recommending this great podcast.

This episode opened my opinions on this issue. Great quality!

Feb. 24 2016 06:51 AM
Christine H from San Diego

So thought provoking! Perhaps more than anything else I've heard on a radio program, this made me rethink my assumptions about a controversial issue. Although I would never consider shooting an animal myself (nor would I own a gun) as I actually cry when my cat mauls and can't even watch violent media without getting upset. But, I was surprised to find Corey a compassionate and thoughtful spokesperson for why this practice exists. It reminded me how arrogant and mis-guided it can be for me to sit back in my comfortable home with all my basic needs met and feel content that I my know what is best for the rest of the world. We must at least give some merit to the idea that if we expect less-affluent nations to protect natural resources (animals and otherwise), we had better stop telling and threatening them and start working WITH them to provide some reasonable alternatives. Corey's point that hunting gives alternative $ value to animals that would otherwise be gained from poaching may be a sad reality but it is, at present time, it is reality none-the less. I also wonder if those expressing moral outrage are vegetarian, farming or hunting their own meat or, at the very least, going to the trouble (and expense) of buying humanely-raised meat. Otherwise, it's somewhat hypocritical to express grave concern for animals just because most of us are protected from the gruesome reality of factory farming that gives us those cheap and tasty burgers we love so much. Just saying...let's find some common ground here and give some credit to someone who is trying to at least abide by a moral code that makes as much sense as the ones most of us conveniently adopt to justify our own behavior.

Feb. 22 2016 05:42 PM
Jenny Doe from New Zealand

A thought provoking though unsettling report. The problem, from my point of view, is that these hunters use a flawed system to justify their desire to kill animals, not for food, but for FUN. They have a word for people who do that to other people - they're called psychopaths. Sure, lots of people believe that animals have less value than humans, but that's a matter of opinion. Either way, the hunter who kills an animal for enjoyment is like that creepy little kid who pulls the wings off flies - dude, there's something seriously wrong with you.

Feb. 10 2016 01:01 AM
Corey Rae from Springfield IL

I think human kind could use a little population control. Less of us means more room to share this planet. Maybe that is a better alternative than killing animals. I don't mean hunting our own kind. I think we could take some responsibility for our reproduction. If less life is given all around that means less life to be taken. Simply not procreating without sufficient means to support the life means less resources needed. Less need to kill in order to live. No moral dilemmas. As a woman I can say it is easier to NOT have a baby than it is to HAVE a baby. If we had a more sustainable population then I do not think there would be a need to poach to make money to survive. It is a tricky world but I think if there was a way to get people on board this would be the simplest solution to many issue we are having.

Feb. 03 2016 05:51 PM
Brandon Yu from San Leandro, California

Just listened to the Gastropod podcast and it resonated with this Rhino Hunter podcast. In the first podcast of Gastropod on Sept 29, 2014, they quote Paul Greenburg's book called American Catch: "Americans are risking their wild salmon because Americans don't eat enough of their wild salmon."

Jan. 29 2016 03:45 PM

Amazing podcast as usual! Very different outlook on hunting now (at least in the case of the Black Rhino). Thanks Radiolab!!

Jan. 27 2016 07:37 PM

It is so delusional to me to view as the only option as killing an animal. Whatever happened to normal philanthropy? Donating money, working with organizations that work to preserve animals. You can provide money to the conservation of animals without killing them.

Jan. 20 2016 03:59 PM

PLEASE, I beg, I cry, I urge you to bring more science stories! I am a Radiolab fanatic of the first degree - a living Radiolab jukebox, I have a Robert Krulwich picture on my wall, my friends painted me a Radiolab t shirt for my birthday which I glamorously flaunt in all my social media profile pictures because there is nothing that I identify more with than Radiolab, I force friends, family and strangers I meet on the train to listen to Radiolab, in fact at some point I even blackmailed my mother to listen to an episode or I won't talk to her, I send people emails with list of episodes to listen to.. BUT with a fair warning that the latest episodes are TOTALLY not in keeping with the quality of the old stories. Please guys, don't take my fix away from me..

Jan. 16 2016 06:03 AM
Alex from Chicago, IL

Was I the only one who's mind was opened up to the complexities of big game hunting that I never new existed by this episode?? The conversation about conservation is not black and white and not as simple as I thought. I for one see big game hunting in a completely new light after this episode.

Obviously in a utopian world we all care enough about our environment to protect and to preserve what we have, but is that reality? Cory's reinforcement of that point really struck me. In fact, he may be doing more to promote conservation than everyone whining about his actions online. He is operating effectively within the parameters of the status quo.

Wow this episode was phenomenal am I right?

Dec. 12 2015 08:50 PM

If Corey Knowlton is really so concerned about culling the pests of this world, perhaps he should start with humans? We have brought the planet to its knees.

Nov. 30 2015 09:36 AM
KT from Malaysia

@Lauren from Australia
I don't think the rhino rape part was meant as a morality thing, I read their tone as being matter-of-fact about it. The point isn't about being misguidedly sentimental and trying to impose human morality on animals, it's the sheer fact that those few individuals are a threat to the rest of the population, so killing them benefits the species by conserving their precious few numbers.

I can't say if I disagree with your philosophy about the intent behind wanting to conserve these animals, I think both sides have pretty valid points and both have their own reasons for being concerned neither of which I think is wrong. You do have a point though, why not just donate the money if they really cared. Richard Leakey's POV of wanting people to value these animals as they are is a noble one, and I do believe culture is something you can change and it might be for the better if he can get enough people behind it, but at the same time Corey raised an important point about needing to give the local people a reason to conserve these animals and for it to be sustainable for them.

These are the people that will have to live with these animals as well as worry about making a living. Like wolves these animals would be a menace and have no benefit for people without all these incentives like tourism and game keeping, so I think it would be condescending to tell these people to do it purely out of the goodness of their hearts while we sit comfortably in our cities away from the actual wildlife.

Nov. 30 2015 09:27 AM
Lauren from Australia

Also, the whole spin of "oh the black rhino bulls are aggressive so they need to be killed" is so seriously misguided and clearly fallacious. It's the nature of the animal!!! It's how they behave in nature, and it's none of humanities business, let alone some convoluted justification for the 1% to execute the beautiful creature in an ego driven, grotesquely neo-colonialist, white man circle jerk.

The whole, painful segment about some rhino rape that happened was so irrelevant, and so clearly there for manipulation.

Also, That's one animal. What about all the other species that are being "hunted" by these wankers? (they are literally just poachers what happen to be rich and white)

I may never listen to another radiolab again. Do you realise that when you publish shoddy reporting like this, it erodes the integrity of your voice?
This and the yellow rain episode, Iv'e pretty much lost trust in you as a source.

Nov. 26 2015 11:40 PM
Lauren from Australia

Why give so much air time to this idiots story and point of veiw? Trophy hunting is not justifiable. The simple question of if they care so f..king much about conservation, why don't they just donate that money, was not asked. If you really respected the life of these animals why kill them? It's such a crock of shit. Why edit the crap out of Leaky, but let this Corey idiot dribble his verbal diarreah and convoluted justifications for killing living creatures for his own ego???

How can you deny that this is vulgar? Ridiculous? Why give that idiot the last word? You basically treated Richard F..king Leakey like some 'radical conservationalist' and gave him 30 seconds of air time. Richard Leakey!! And the whole rest of the show is rhetoric.

Why do I even listen to this podcast anymore. This wasn't even reporting. Lost faith in radiolab long ago. loosing faith in humanity.

Nov. 26 2015 08:20 AM
Mike from Maine

Not one single mention of the billions of dollars that are donated to various conservation organizations (The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, Audubon Society, etc.) that work to preserve endangered species around the world. I'll echo the other sentiments in this forum that the hunter in this episode could have donated the money to preserve this species, but he did not. I doubt he would've forked over the money if he didn't get the thrill of the kill.

P.S. I still love your show. I would love it if you did an episode on how some genetic phenotypes are a consequence of our cultural differences (for ex. lactase persistence and cows). :)

Nov. 20 2015 07:25 PM
David Why from Georgia

Was waiting for "Lone Rhinoceros" by Adrian Belew as a musical stinger - maybe next time. Great story, hope it opens some minds to what needs to be done for sustainable conservation of species and habitat.

Nov. 14 2015 07:41 PM

Robert Krulwich brought up a very good point at the end of the show about the view of humanity and its relationship to the natural world. I find Corey Knowlton's self-serving response very unconvincing. He claims that in the "real world," as opposed to Robert's "imaginary" one, the system of hunting animals for money is necessary and he goes out there to do something about preserving wildlife he cares so much about.

Corey, if you care so much about wildlife preservation, how about you just donate the $350K and leave the animals be.

Something about sports hunting is very disturbing. It's the enjoyment of killing other beings. How about spending money to enjoy them in their habitat? How about spurring the economy by buying high end camera gear instead of hunting gear?

Nov. 14 2015 02:34 PM
Andy S from Chicago, Il

This was a great and well done episode. After all the biased screaming and yelling over the Cecil the Lion situation it is nice to see more balanced reporting.

As someone who hunts game such as deer, coyote and rabbit. I would like to remind people that these local creatures are nuisance animals and by controlling their population we prevent more suffering for the species via starvation. Its a natural way to handle things unless you want wild wolfs re-introduced into your city. Spoiler alert your cat, dog and maybe you might be casualties. Also you can thank me for the deer that didn't try and fail to jump across your windshield the other day on the Kennedy highway, totaling your car.

I think we should be far more worried about a news media the grabs a single tag line and runs it to the far end of the earth . The tag line not the facts that is. Maybe its just me but the 24 hour news media has since the first Iraq war and CNN reporting has begun to display all the warning signs of a drug addict.

I saw another commentor (sp?) post that we are closely related to gorillas. That is false. Our closet's genetic ancestors are chimpanzees. Who are cannibals.

But you know...facts and data... sometimes they hurt. I suggest a helmet.

Nov. 12 2015 11:01 PM
Lou from Indianapolis

You guys are really good at sorting fiction and getting down to the truth of things. I own 4 guns, and was ambivalent toward hunters, until I heard your story. I loved your coverage of both all sides, but you left one huge gaping hole. I will sum it up this way. Yes, I eat meat, but I pay people to kill it quickly and humanely. Hunters enjoy the thrill of chasing down and killing animals. I don't mind the kill, at all. I think the problem is that they don't do it humanely. Their prey has to suffer, sometimes for hours, before it meets its end. If hunters truley cared about the animal, more than the thrill, they would use tranquilizer darts, and then shoot the sleeping animal. That would have been a great question to pose to your hunters. You guys missed it. I missed that too, until today. Thanks for the thinking fodder, though. I love your show.


Nov. 12 2015 06:18 PM
Tim from Indiana

Let me tell you why I think this was a fantastic episode. So much of the Internet is a polar point of view. Left or right, you know it right away and love it or hate it. I'm a conservative but not a hunter. I love Radiolab and Rush Limbaugh both (I don't consider them opposites by the way). Flame me for that if you want. But I also grew up appreciating that John-boy Walton couldn't shoot that deer. I'm not sure I could either. What I loved about this episode was that it was as close to a real and respectful conversation that you'll hear anywhere else in media. They didn't fawn over the Rhino hunter but they let him give his case. They showed the ugly side of the hunt in the section where the animal was not immediately killed. They let Dr. Leaky present an alternative. Yes, the Rhino hunter got the last word, but the episode was not heavy handed. I learned something I did not know about that view of conservation. It made me think. This episode made me love Radiolab even more because they found a space in this crazy online world to keep a dialogue open.

Nov. 12 2015 10:09 AM
Lis from Argentina

It was the first time I felt disappointed after listening to one of radiolab’s podcasts.
I perceived a misunderstanding in the idea conservation, which is conceived from a mercantilist view instead of taking into consideration the real values that conserve and preserve the natural environment, involve.
I feel sorry for institutions and governments that accept this kind of “funds” that do nothing but transform animals into goods for rich people.
All organizations committed with the preservation of biodiversity know that a person who kills an animal just for the satisfaction of hunting is doing something wrong. Period. Millionaire or not.
Unfortunately money is above the main debate we should have: the relationship between society and environment to a better preservation of both.

Nov. 10 2015 12:30 AM
Kathleen from Atlanta

This is such irresponsible reporting, and I'm sad to say that I will no longer listen to Radiolab! Shame on you!

Nov. 05 2015 02:58 PM
Bob Smith

I was going to rehash some of the arguments that were already made, but most of you have stated them far more eloquently than I ever could.

However, I think there's an issue that's being overlooked -- the value of animals. And I'm not talking about dollar amounts. I'm talking about what relationship people have with animals. Do they have the same rights and privileges as humans? If so, is it wrong to have an ox pull a cart or a horse pull a carriage? Isn't that slavery? If not, and we do have superiority over them, then where do you draw the line? What is our role? I think we have the responsibility to help take care of them (which may include artificially helping increase their populations or artificially eliminating those that are a threat to the herd), but we also have the right to use them responsibly. Not to torture them, but to use them to help us with our work and, yes also for food if we so desire (did you miss the part where vast majority of this animal's meat was shipped off to a local village?)

What really bothers me are those who elevate the life of an animal to the same level as that of a human, or in many cases, elevate the value of a human and devalue human life.

What's more barbaric, killing an animal, or murdering another human being and his family to save the life of an animal? Maybe those were idle threats, but even so, that speaks volumes about how little we value one another.

Nov. 05 2015 11:59 AM

this episode made me wonder about his level of education, especially in regard to conservation. trophy hunting is certainly not equivalent to hunting for subsistence/to survive. corey knowlton's condescension spoke volumes, and he will never relate to those indigenous to Africa.

Nov. 03 2015 07:02 PM
Emma from Palmyra NJ

Amazing show- though weighed a bit heavy on the sport hunter viewpoint. There are hunters out there who really are there for the right reason--hunting for food and being part of the natural system. Hunting large game for sport is what lead to the degradation of the populations of these animals, though yes it makes money to support the preservation of these animals it is also the continuing cause for the efforts being emasculated by poachers and black market hunting.

Oct. 30 2015 01:33 PM
Courtney from Georgia

Thank you, Radiolab, for putting together such an insightful story. I am actually in the processes of analyzing it for one of my senior projects at the University of Georgia. This is a perfect example of persuasive rhetoric that passes the test of evidence. This can be a very emotionally charged topic, and as usual, you handled it with grace and professionalism.Bravo.

Oct. 27 2015 08:35 PM
Erin from Wisconsin

I have gone turkey hunting once as part of a learn-to-hunt program here in Wisconsin. I am an avid hiker, backpacker, cyclist, etc. and I would say that I have never felt as much a part of nature as I have as a hunter. You lose all sense of self as your senses become acutely aware of the sights and sounds around you. I have never been more alert, aware of my surroundings or tuned into my own ability to discern what is going on. It was a pretty incredible experience. That said, I didn't shoot anything so did not have to take a life and I am not a big fan of trophy hunting, but, holy smokes, does it key you into these capacities we humans have to seek out sustenance which are obscured by modern existence.

Oct. 27 2015 04:51 PM
Abashai from Monterey, CA

I can't express how much Radiolab is enjoyed and appreciated for find the intersections of challenging concepts and exploring them. Thank you.

@ Becca, Neal and LFP
Both Corey and Leaky advocate the same core requirement - That the value of the animals be created through human action.

Becca, to think value only equates to currency is extremely un-sophisticated. Leakey created value by bringing attention to the the elephants at the expense of the the ivory. Corey is working to show Namibia's economic value of Rhino conservation is much greater than the $60,000 horns that are being poached. When rational people can see that there is no value in poaching - but in conserving then they can rationally change. That is why the animal park owners are in business - because it has social and economic value..... and in a weird way ethical value (is it ethical to put down a murdering, rapist rhino...?)

Neal's whole argument about giving one drug dealer a tag to sell is turned on it's head by one big issue - Legalization of Marijuana. Does the Legalization of Marijuana (hunting for conservation) have a positive socio/economic effect?

Maybe it is easier to call people bad names like blood thirsty rednecks....or to say that you are going to chop their families up in a woodchipper - in front of them... Because that is ....(right/wrong?)

At the end of the day, we need a mix of good solutions. A good portfolio of diverse idea's that all work a little bit, so that we can gain the most amount of value as possible. That has been proven to work much better than a homogeneous group of idea's who's value creation ability is limited to it's structure.

i.e. A little bit of Corey, a little bit of Leaky, a little bit of Radiolab, and a pinch of marijuana tax revenue.

Oct. 26 2015 07:13 PM
Karl from Perth, Aus

Sorry Becca but that is an incredibly arrogant point of view. You might like to think you are right and donation and relying on goodwill is the only way to go, but in reality not everyone is a bleeding heart. What exactly can be gained from education? Do you think that a poacher, or some land developer who would destroy natural habitat, doesn't know know that they are endangered? Of course they know, but they don't care because in the real world money talks.

Also, I would love to hear your reasoning on how killing a male that can no longer reproduce would damage the conservation of the species.

And as a final point I just really want to bemoan this idea that every piece of media in the world has to present a balanced view of all sides of an argument. Where on earth does this idea come from? It's an imaginary requirement that seems to have popped up in the last few years and it's incredibly restrictive on what people write, especially journalists, and it's highly damaging. When people are ruthlessly criticised for presenting an opinion, you end up with the kind of empty reporting you get in Australia where nothing is analysed, no opinions are given and press releases are just regurgitated by news outlets.
You know what point of view is being presented here, this isn't some propaganda piece, they tell you who is telling their story and what their background is. Assuming you have the power of critical thinking it is up to you to decide what weight to give their opinions, this podcast is not telling you what to think.

Oct. 22 2015 01:57 PM
Becca from Burbank, CA

The idea that something needs to be assigned a dollar amount to have value is disgusting and exactly the problem with people like Corey. It sounds like a justification to be allowed a guilt free card to hunt endangered species. And a way of pressuring conservationist programs into a faulty and possibly unethical program models. The idea that conservation can't exist without big tickets hunters is wrong. Why not just donate the money into conservation for more protection against poachers and education to the locals and the people who buy poached animals parts within these markets??? Why not do these things rather than pretend you HAVE to hunt the species to protect it. If you truly care then just donate 350,000 dollars and let one more rhino live.

I'm not happy with the fact that this wasn't discussed more. There was one voice of reason interviewed Kenya’s former Director of Wildlife, Richard Leakey who said that Corey's idea of conservation was ridiculous. And it is. He found that education, dying the ivory, burning the ivory etc... worked. and worked better then "conversation hunting" model. I don't appreciate arguments like "the only way to save these species is to have their value assigned to a dollar"... that is pathetically the wrong kind of thinking.

Oct. 21 2015 01:21 PM
Bekah from Michigan

I am actually a vegetarian, and should normally probably be against this type of thing. But hearing this story helped me to see how important conservation really is. The couple with their fenced in conservation is proof that the permits to kill actually do allow the population to grow. And that does make me happy!

We would kill a human or at least put him in prison if he went mad and started killing people (only to protect the rest of the human race), so why not do it to protect the black rhinos? I don't see the difference. Just like I don't eat humans, and I also don't eat animals either.

Oct. 21 2015 10:18 AM

I am a long time listener of Radiolab and a huge fan. Typically their episodes are thoroughly researched and they present both sides of the argument very well. But Radiolab blew it pretty bad on this episode despite opening the podcast saying that they have been working on this for at least 2 year...really guys? They did absolutely nothing to counter "conservation" argument and basically ended up promoting the idea. Similar to big game hunting tags, what if the local police dept start auctioning a single tag that permits a single drug dealer to sell drugs on the street? The police dept can make a lot of money and put it to good use know...catching criminals and enforcing drug laws to name a few. It worked for big game hunting, so it should work in our communities too. The upside for the communities is that their tax burden is lowered...simple economics!! Jad & Robert, what do you guys think of my brilliant idea? Do you guys think you have enough material for an episode?

Oct. 20 2015 07:34 PM
kavi from Austin

I thought this was a really good, thought provoking episode. I am not a hunter, and find the idea of killing an animal for no reason than enjoyment, hard to imagine. It is easy to dismiss people who hunt as evil, but this episode did a good job of letting a hunter explain their relationship to the animals. I see the reactions of commentators on here complaining about bias or lack of ethical wrangling, but I feel they are missing the point. The conflict was supposed to exist in you. As a radiolab listener, I had to confront the fact that the most effective form of conservation involves something I detest. Assigning a tangible value to these animals and habitats, even if through the lens of hunting, leads to their continued existence. To the argument that he could have paid $350k and not hunted the rhino, so could have you, so could have I, or anyone else, but we didn't, and hunters do. They are funding conservation and we aren't.

Oct. 19 2015 06:21 PM

This is BY FAR the worst episode of Radiolab I've heard. I've been a listener of the show from the beginning but this one was incredibly poorly researched and reasoned.

You devoted 95% of the show to a redneck trying to rationalize his blood lust and 5% to a voice of reason (Leakey)? Where was the discussion of the many existing alternatives to hunting to fund African conservation? Where were the interviews with conservation biologists, ecologists, anthropologists, and aid workers?

The fact is, the central thesis of the show -- that hunting by delusional white neocolonialists is the ONLY method to conserve endangered species -- is utter BS.

One could almost hear your "reporter" nodding credulously at the Texas redneck's every word. I guess that's happens when you assign a clueless 20-something to a story that he obviously knows absolutely nothing about.

Minimally, you really need to do a follow-up episode discussing the other side of the story. If not, you've lost me as a listener. Really disappointing guys.

Oct. 19 2015 03:33 PM

RadioLab, this is an important story, well told, thank you. But by the end I was left unsettled and unsatisfied: this was great storytelling, but insufficient "Big Picture". Culling only sterile aggressive males in a very few charismatic species, in extremely limited numbers, for very high bids may make sense for extremely few endangered species, but not for most of the over 41,000 endangered species. Elephants and Rhinos won't be safe until the mostly Chinese market for horn and tusks disappears, AND until local humans make better livings protecting animals versus poaching them.

In the single-digit handful of species for which high-bid hunting MAY make sense, the bidding should start far higher. The not-yet-endangered Waterbuck that died a slow and agonizing death seems tragically underpriced at $21,000. The bids for that Black Rhino should've opened for not a penny less than $500,000. Now that China has surpassed the US in billionaires, maybe high-bid hunting finally has enough prospective bidders to drive endangered-species hunting into million-dollar price tags per animal.

Oct. 18 2015 12:05 PM
Isaac from Atherton, CA

Thank you. I too am wondering what is the song around min. 22 of the show. Can someone help, please? Thanks, Isaac

Oct. 18 2015 02:13 AM
Bree from Seattle, WA

I so appreciate this episode. Thank you for the great story! I learned something important and felt that the story was balanced and left the listeners with questions to ponder.

Oct. 16 2015 10:09 PM

Cory if you read this I want to thank you for being such an informed and passionate advocate for conservation.

Radiolabs if I had to name a part of the story that was maybe missing it was the need to "manage" and sometimes that means killing, an endangered species such as the black rhino. When numbers of individuals of the species are so low each individual and it's genes becomes even more important. Older male rhinos are actually a hindrance to recovery, and should be culled whether for trophy or not.

The basic ideas of Wildlife Management haven't changed much since Aldo Leopold articulated and taught them. I only wish people had read him beyond his quotes from Sand Country Almanac.

Oct. 16 2015 09:06 PM
Larry Rogers from Skagit Valley, WA

Here’s an important piece I think missing: As a cultural anthropologist, I’ve been very interested in the history of agriculture – especially the movement from hunting and gathering to agriculture. I think one thing Mr. Knowlton was trying to say, but didn’t quite have the language for, is that valuing animals and hunting puts a special kind of value on animals to survive – a kind of value that younger environmentalists may be slow to understand. That is, real hunters and gatherers hunt species that they not just they want to hunt, but rely on. An example of this is the difference between how many American hunt and how 1st nations folks hunt—one group of folks would be fine with killing the largest, healthiest buck in the woods, while another would specifically leave the largest animals to thrive and reproduce. The antithesis of this, of course, is folks who poach and kill for cheap money. Knowlton and other big-money-hunting are in some fuzzy spot outside of either of these. It’s a little more akin to entertainment, which is a big marker of our age in the west.
It is clear that throughout history the biggest danger to the world’s diversity of species is agriculture and people that rely on agriculture and the clearing of land for the domestication of animals and more corn and soybeans, which in the end do not feed anyone well. This is what’s going on in the Amazon, this is what happened to many lost North American species. When agriculturalists kill off animals that “endanger” their crop or when farmers kill off animals that “endanger” their animals, we have seen mass extinction of diverse, wild species and a fetishization of a few species, often monocropping, which become heavily reliant on much non-renewable resources. Never mind the fact that eating a wild animal is much better for us and for nature than eating a domesticated animal. The same with wild vegetation. I could go on and on, but I guess I should remember this is a “comment” section and not my own blog  Thanks for the story!

Oct. 15 2015 02:06 PM
Jenny from Brooklyn, NY

Great show. Leakey's pithy input at the crux of the episode was perfect. Killing endangered species for any reason (in the wild or in captivity) is still to my mind, morally dubious, but I appreciated the balanced alternate viewpoint.

Oct. 15 2015 11:10 AM
Christl from CO from Colorado

Thank you so much Corey Knowlton for putting yourself out there. I was so saddened by what you and your family had to endure. Sadly, our world has little empathy for those who have different ideas even when we all want the same results. I too prefer to save a species than an individual animal. With ever increasing human population and resource pressure, your practical approach is likely the large animals only hope for existence. We need both Leakey's demand side reduction and your market driven habitat preservation. Idealism aside, in the end, both the world market and the people who live near these animals will decide their fate.

Oct. 15 2015 09:19 AM
Rhiannon from Montreal

I agree with the guy who says killing to stop killing is sending the wrong message. I felt sad when I heard about the older male rhino killing and raping the other rhinos younger and weaker than him. But first of all, what gives us the right to intervene? They talk about preserving the rhinos as a species, so that humans can see them and look at them... really?? How selfish. More human speciesism at work. Anyone who claims to care about the Black Rhinos or any species for that matter should not be able to put multiple bullets in one and get satisfaction from it and use some twisted logic to defend your choice to kill it.
Also at the end, he just made a fool of himself with these quotes:
1. "I'm living in a world that matters and that's real." Okay so whenever there's a serious issue with the current method of doing something let's not even try to think of a better solution let's just keep killing sentient beings and blinding ourselves and lying to people???.....what an idiot.
2. "You don't have those canine teeth to eat salad. People don't like killing lambs that they eat, that doesn't mean it's wrong." - Okay first of all our teeth/digestive system are extremely similar to that of gorillas, NOT carnivores, but frugivores, with a diet of mainly fruit, with vegetables, nuts and seeds. And I disagree with the statement that because someone doesn't want to kill a lamb, it isn't wrong. It is wrong. Align your actions with your values. If you are uncomfortable with killing a lamb, presumably because you have some sort of heart and compassion, then don't eat them.
That's all.

Oct. 13 2015 08:09 PM

I found the episode to be frustrating and a challenge to many of my preconceived notions, i.e. It made me think critically and uncomfortably. I felt, like many other commenters, that there should be more "balance". But, on reflection, I think the urge to balance would have blunted the effect. Ultimately, the episode works for me because it was so maddening.

Oct. 11 2015 09:53 AM
AnimalLove from San Francisco

It's funny to see how many commentators start dissing Radiolab just because they happened to have put out an episode that didn't completely agree with their own personal morality. Didn't think the sort of listeners Radiolab has can be so close minded.

Oct. 11 2015 12:23 AM
William Litsch from Oakton, VA

Heartfelt good intentioned hunters or not they are simply demonstrably wrong in their belief that they do species conservation more good than harm. Truth is most are not so good intentioned or at least their intentions fail due to the ignorance of the effect of their actions on the environment.

The fact is that the vast majority of wild species of animals that cannot feed off of human waste and detritus are decreasing in number and in health. Species are lost everyday. Conservation efforts usually amount to nothing more than half-hearted compromises that sometimes slow, sometimes quicken, never stop and typically legitimize existing exploitation of that species for economic or entertainment purposes.

Hunters that claim to fund their parks and wilderness management bureaucracies aren't wrong, but what do those managers spend a lot of time doing. They spend their time keeping out poachers, keeping hunters safe, maintaining roads for hunters and hikers. They are in-turn managing hunters for hunters sake. Often not the animals sake. Park managers treat animals as a resource and hunters and hikers as the individuals to protect and keep safe.

Yes, hunters like zoo enthusiasts can come to appreciate the existence of zoos and the existence of animals for the hunt through their interaction with animals, but that doesn't mean that they come to appreciate the harm done by the activity. Zoos are cages that basically make animals, especially social ones, miserable for the entertainment and profit of people. Trophy hunting and non-sustenance based hunting for entertainment tends to kill strong animals unlike wild predators that go for weak or dying prey. As a result modern hunters tend to make populations of their prey weaker, less healthy, and more prone to disease. Modern hunters are poor population management tools.

Historically, would there be as much space set aside for animals and conservation without hunters. It is hard to say. Probably not is my guess. However, due to the fact that most conservation efforts are failures and the supposed successes are usually still involving populations and habitats in decline, it is not that great of a win.

The truth is that there are two forces that are usually mutual antagonists in the effort to save species. Those hunters who fight against habitat encroachment and wish to preserve space for their mostly harmful activities and those encroachers that live next to the wilderness and appreciate it while themselves damaging or destroying it who want what remains to be protected from the activities of hunters. Both have done some good. Both do harm. Together, though they have slowed the degradation and harm done to species and the environment they have for their own interests and lifestyles continued to exploit it and every year the environment suffers more losses than gains as a result. In their battle the environment is a net loser not winner.

Oct. 09 2015 02:42 PM
Andy from Seattle

As a left-leaning person who is puzzled and slightly disgusted by hunting in all its forms, I found this to be an excellent episode of RadioLab as it explored perspectives I haven’t been exposed to.

The economic argument for hunting - that it helps preserve species by assigning value to their existence - is incredibly compelling. While it’s unfortunate that this is the case, it’s an incontrovertible fact that economic incentives, not altruism, makes the world go round.

As per usual, well done, Radio Lab!

Oct. 09 2015 02:09 PM
Esther from Huntington Beach, CA

I found this podcast quite interesting and I disagree with several of the comments that are disappointed with the lack of moral grappling on this issue. I do feel like the majority of people have the opposite viewpoint to what was presented in this episode. So the point of it would be to open our eyes to the other point of view, which I think this episode did very well. I can't say that I've been converted to the other side but it definitely made me think about this topic in a different light. Great episode, thanks.

Oct. 09 2015 01:27 PM

I tried but I could not listen to the whole episode. Horrible show. And what a despicable human being.

Oct. 08 2015 09:00 PM
eriko from Brasil

it´s disgusting to listen to that guy saying "i'm so happy, very good feelings" after killing the animal. This is SICK SICK, HE SHOULD SHOT HIMSELF.

Oct. 08 2015 03:57 PM
Warren from Connecticut

Really amazing episode. So many kind of haunting and deep audio clips - Corey literally about to cry about how much he needed to do the hunt, the numerous shots it takes to kill the rhinos, the sound of the rhino bones. Really made me think about conservation in general. Still definitely think he could have just donated the money and not killed the animal, but his side is still interesting to mull over.

I'm not sure what's up with the comments about this being not critical enough. The whole point was that it was easy to criticize, and they were trying to show the alternate side. Plus Simon seems pretty clearly skeptical of Corey and the practice as well most of the episode.

Oct. 08 2015 10:32 AM
Mel Count from Minneapolis

This was a fascinating look inside the mind of a hunter, but I still don't understand the drive to kill an animal that is at the brink of extinction. I grew up in woods on the edge of Lake Michigan. I used to sit silently, watching the animals for hours. I tracked chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons, opossums, and deer. I occasionally caught them in live traps, or approached as close as I could without scaring them. I understand communing with nature, getting inside the head of other creatures. I understand the thrill of tracking. I understand all of it, right up until the point of killing. I don't get that. I would be just as happy grabbing a close-up photo then leaving the animal alive for someone else to have the same experience. Killing for meat is fine, but killing for thrill is just sad. It is entirely possible to have almost the complete hunting experience, without killing the animal in the end.
I understand the need to control populations, especially of deer, and hunting seems to be an efficient way of doing that, but when it comes to rare animals that are at the brink, it makes no sense at all. There has got to be a better way of preserving them for future generations. Killing them to preserve them seems oxymoronic.

Oct. 08 2015 08:10 AM
Jason from Australia

Why not donate the $350,000 straight to the conservation groups? It's a purely exploitative standpoint for those within the gun culture group to say "but we're conservating!". Just donate the money. Your need to hunt is purely cultural and it's a want, not a need. Donate the money and the conservation groups can do their jobs.

Oct. 08 2015 01:31 AM
Phil from Colorado

In Colorado hunting is big, really big and there are people on both sides of the argument. The real problem isn't the animals, it's us. We've driven out the predators and encroached on the migratory areas and pretty much put our dirty footprints everywhere.
The Parks service has been culling animals for decades in order to save them.

I've never hunted, but I'll support hunters who follow the rules and hunt safely. We are now the wolves, we are now the bear, we are now the mountain lions.

Oct. 07 2015 04:33 PM
Sylvie from Asheville, NC

I have to agree with majority of commentors here: was this really an episode of Radiolab?
The joy of Radiolab is listening as Jad and Robert grapple with a topic, turn it this way and that and take ultimately take it to interesting and unexpected places.
This episode seemed utterly uncritical and kinda slapdash, which is really a shame given the fertile subject matter.
I believe that killing for pleasure is dishonorable, but I would have been interested in hearing some real grappling with ethical issues. Taking this self-interested big game hunter at his word (fawning over him, even) just seems like bad journalism.
I would recommend an addendum interview with Matthew Scully, Republican speechwriter, who wrote about big game hunting conventions in his book, Dominion.
Hoping for a return to form for an outstanding show.

Oct. 07 2015 03:38 PM
Devon from Oklahoma City, OK

I consider myself to be incredibly broad-minded, and I have to tip my hat to you guys, I left this episode with a different view of this topic, one that I didn't expect.

I love your show. Thank you for giving a broader, more intensive view of potentially hot-button issues such as these.

You guys rock.

And I have to ask - how do get to be one of the people who reads the credits? :)


Oct. 07 2015 02:52 PM

At one point, the podcast seems to highlight an apparent hypocrisy between the joy of hunting, and the desire to conserve the natural world (animals and habitat). Like other people's reaction to the podcast, I felt it lacked the depth, but with regards to the experience of hunting.

Specifically, I want to cite the book, "Call of the Mild," by Lily Raff McCaulou. Lily Raff McCaaulou, traces her experience moving from NYC to Bend, Oregon, afraid of guns and hunting, to someone who can eventually hunt birds and large game (I recommend this wonderful book).

One of the key takeaways from the book was the relationship hunters have with their environment. Lily Raff McCauolou describes how the experience of hunting is NOT delightful in the way that was portrayed in this podcast, but rather a deeply personal experience one can have with the natural world - a personal experience that is unique to hunting. Spending hours, days, sitting in one spot in the forest, waiting for a deer to pass by, brings you a very unique experience with the environment. After reading about Lily's experience, I would argue hunters know the behaviors and personalities of the animals they hunt more than we, "non-hunters," could ever imagine.

The hypocrisy portrayed in this podcast, that hunters find delight in hunting but care deeply about the animals and environment with which they hunt in, is not so. The experience of hunting brings an awareness and connection to the environment that many of us can't comprehend.

(A little about me - As a 22 year old woman living in Silicon Valley, I don't hunt. Last year, I despised the thought of hunting and hunters. Reading "Call of the Mild" had a powerful effect on me, and the book informed my opinion about the value of hunting animals. Today, I'm pro-hunting.)

Oct. 06 2015 08:55 PM
Doug from Delaware

While I appreciate Radiolab's guts to go out and a do a story like this, I agree with many of the comments that the perspective of this story was narrow at best, and below the standards of Radiolab's best. While the best portion of the story (in my mind) was the authenticity of Corey trying to describe how he cares about the animals while hunting them, this whole episode lacked context. I left agreeing that hunting for the purposes of culling the population isn't useless, and indeed may be useful, but I left listening to the episode doubting that it was the MOST useful way to cull the population (or if culling was truly necessary). I understand that the hunters think that they are helping the populations, and to a certain extent it seems like they are, but there is no context to know the magnitude of this "helping". For example, are we sure that killing old bulls is best for the populations? Can we not do something else with the old bulls - like sell them to zoos? This would also create economic benefits where there had not been any before. While I understand the hunter's perspective now, I feel like Radiolab has not helped me navigate this messy issue, whereas they normally try harder to.

I'm not angry at you Radiolab. I'm just disappointed.

There was not context, not qualification, no(/little) science/data, no differing perspectives, nothing beyond a snapshot of a hunter's psychology. I think this should be solved with another episode, placing this story in the context in which it belongs.

Oct. 06 2015 07:28 PM
Jeri Schwerin from USA

This was really interesting. Thank you for broadcasting it. This segment brought up several dimensions of this complex issue that I was not aware of, and had never considered before.

Oct. 05 2015 05:10 PM

This fell far, far short of Radiolab's traditional high standards. Radiolab's best when it starts with the science, then brings it up to the intersection with politics and hints at where to go from there. This episode started with the politics, basically gave voice to only one side of a debate, and never tied it back to the questions that science might be able to shed light on.

There was essentially no exploration of the other side of the issue, which left Knowlton's exceedingly condescending apologia completely unchallenged. Even Krulwich just backed down at the first "All y'all elitist big city fools who don't know where your food comes from..." from Knowlton, which frankly shocked me. This is just a recycling of the NRA supporter's dismissal of anyone who doesn't own a firearm as unfit to have an opinion on gun control, for a different topic. If you're going to buy that argument, OK, but there are plenty of experts (and/or listeners!) out there who understand that world, who grew up in rural areas and/or around hunting, and yet have ambivalent feelings about it and would be glad to debate with Knowlton, rather than just roll over at the first mention of the "real world."

Instead of a counterpoint, then, we heard the militant, persecution-soaked ravings of the auctioneer at the Utah hunting convention, about hunter conservationists needing to arm themselves because they're in a fight to the death for their way of life, with zero pushback or context. Nothing about the intersection between that 2nd Amendment world and hunter conservationism, which overlap is a significant reason conservationists have struggled to educate people on their hunting pays for habitat protection model? No inquiries about why hunters can't make common cause with "environmentalists" when they do, in fact, have a lot of common goals? No pushback to Knowlton, who dismisses the opinion of anyone who doesn't invest as much energy and money as he does to his positions, about the commitment level of those who would spend years boating around the world's oceans trying to combat illegal whaling and overfishing - does that mean their convictions are as right as his?

Oct. 05 2015 12:19 PM

There are so many great comments written here. So many that I couldn't read them all. But I want to bring back a point that somebody made halfway down this list of comments. I don't object to putting the older rhino bulls down if they are a danger to other rhinos who could be in their reproductive prime. I don't think that leaving the animals to do what they would do under natural conditions is the way to go when we are talking about an endangered species. Their condition is anything but natural. I think those bulls do need to be put down in order to give the rest every possible opportunity to produce offspring. During the whole podcast I waited for the interviewer to ask Mr. Knowels his opinion on the possibility of paying $350,000 to kill a bull HUMANELY. Maybe darting it with a lethal dose of tranquilizers? He would still get to use a gun! That would have been a question that would have brought down his entire argument that he wants to do this for purely noble reasons. As awflul as the idea of paying for the right to kill an animal is, giving him the alternative to do it in a humane way might have left him speechless. My guess is that he would not have agreed to it and his sadistics motives would have been undeniably clear.

Oct. 05 2015 09:58 AM

Wow- the team at Radiolab is usually so careful, insighful and deliberate that I find it hard to believe this episode aired with such a light moral evaluation. The saddest comment was about how this gleeful hunter enjoys hunting because it brings him back to a special time with his father. I really wish his dad had some other interest so his son would have grown up to fetishize some other pursuit. In the few seconds of the nearly morality-free episode one of your interviewees put it succinctly - you don't auction off one of your daughters if you need to feed your children. Would you like orphanages in some countries to do the same thing? Perhaps if they did you could go interview those innovators. I can only conclude that this episode was paid for by the gun/hunting lobby. The least you could do is tell us who you are whoring yourself out to.

Oct. 03 2015 11:21 PM
AnimalLove from San Francisco

First of all, gorillas are not all herbivore. A good number of gorilla are well known omnivores in their respected habitats. Second of all, they anything but peaceful... Please, read up on them before you pass on the fantasy animal facts that exists nowhere in reality.

Oct. 03 2015 07:58 PM
Eric from So. Cal.

So many thoughts about this episode. First off, I'm always interested in listening to people I generally agree with most of the time when they have something to say that challenges my assumptions. I don't have an emotional reaction to the killing of animals as some do, but I generally think killing for fun is cruel act and deserves scorn.

One thing I'm interested in hearing more about though. In the beginning of the episodes they were talking about the high priced auctioning that goes on for hunting licenses here in the USA. One of the only times I feel that hunting is a noble act is those who use it to feed themselves for economic reasons.

Are these auctions pricing substance hunting in america so high that only the rich who can afford to buy their own food can afford it? That seemed like a larger scandal to me.

Oct. 02 2015 07:38 PM
Eleanor from Quebec

I am a vegetarian and am no stranger to the argument that we have canines for a reason: meat eating. Gorillas also have extremely scary looking canines, and yet they are peaceful herbivores. Pull that out the next time someone tries that argument on you.

Apart from that, I agree with Rae from Pennsylvania. It would be interesting to see more of the other side of the coin. RadioLab rocks!

Oct. 01 2015 08:07 AM
Rae from pennsylvania

While the perspective was interesting, i found the entire podcast rather one-sided. We had a brief comment from Richard on an method of conservation while the entire lot of the podcast was devoted to the hunting angle. this was rather disappointing. The model of raising animals to hunt animals is basically just farmed wild animal agriculture with entertainment in view and conservation as a "benefit" and justification. I think it would behoove radiolab to do another program that really seeks to find the truthful causes of wild animal depletion and why we need to conserve species in the first place, as well as outline practical measures even someone of modest means can undertake.

P.S. gorillas, baboons, hippos, and other herbivorous creatures all have larger canines than humans and happily "eat salad" all day as Cory would put it. That excuse is lame and should be put to rest. Please find a less specious argument. Perhaps we could compare our molars to that of a lions for proof we are meant to be hunters. . . oh wait, their molars are all sharp like scissors. . . that wouldn't work either. How about our vicious claws. . . nope. Oh I know, our prey drive. Here's the real proof we are obligate hunters, when we see a prey animal we automatically go into hunter mode (especially when hungry). if we could all control our prey drive there might be less car accidents and we could focus more on our texting and cell phone conversations.

Sep. 30 2015 02:30 PM
Jason Patron from Salt Lake City

Why did they play haunted house music every time they played sound clips of people who were pissed off about rich fools killing animals? They didn't play spooky music with the sound clips of those gun-show locos in Utah talking about "suiting up in armor" to fight the enemy and "protect our way life" (Palin-speak for "kill animal rights activists"). These so-called journalists gave the Texan about 20 minutes to blather on and make his condescending points about the "real world" and being a steward of wildlife by killing it -- and gave Leakey about 30 seconds to present an alternative. You took 2 years making this? On whose payroll? Some weak shit.

Sep. 29 2015 11:36 PM
Ed from Reality

Click, click, click, click, click, click.... gratz RL ;-)

Sep. 29 2015 03:32 PM
M from Indy

If we all had your rhino hunters financial means, he would very quickly find his methods and ideology unattainable. Richard Leakey would have made a far better story.

Sep. 29 2015 01:06 PM
Adam from Brooklyn

I really felt for the hunter's struggle to find words for why he desires to hunt. For me, it is about being close to the world we live in, in the same way that I prefer to grow fruit and vegetables, forage, and butcher my own food. If you're an American that doesn't understand this, please visit Native American reservations and ask what nature means to them. Personally, I opt to use traditional methods of hunting- long or recurve bow and homemade arrows.

But as far how hunting supports conservation, please take a look at your respective state's department of fish and wildlife projects, then look to see where the money is coming in. As a native Oregonian, the budget goes toward biologists throughout the state who support projects such as recently saving the Oregon chub (a tiny fish with virtually no economic value), greater sage grouse environment restoration, wolf restoration, combating invasive species such as the asian carp and the New Zealand mud snail... and I could go on and on. Where does the funding for these things come from? Hunting and fishing tags. Where does it not? Common tax payers.

Sep. 29 2015 10:04 AM
Steve from Ohio

I find it humorous that we have the hubris to believe that we fully understand the animal kingdom; that we know exactly how to control populations and ecosystems and are prepared to deal with the outcomes of our actions.

Are aging rhino bulls a new development in rhino populations? If not, how have rhino populations survived to this point? If so, are they somehow a result of human interaction? How can we possibly know what to do with an old rhino bull if we can't answer these questions? A millionaire with a gun may think the right thing to do is throw money towards conservationism, but we can't possibly know if the right thing to do is kill that old bull.

I think this episode asks the wrong questions. "What does wildlife give us? What does it do for people?" is incorrect. We should ask ourselves what right we think we have to interfere so boldly in the affairs of animals? Why do we as a species assume that we have the final say in how the natural world will work?

I remember a fitting quote, “If all the insects were to disappear from the earth, within 50 years all life on Earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the Earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish.”

Sep. 28 2015 04:08 PM
Lori from Washington

When hunters (big game or average sportsmen) kill an animal, the goal always seems to be to kill the biggest, most genetically fit animal in the herd (or pride etc). Everyone wants the moose with the biggest rack, or the biggest most magnificent lion. Unfortunately, these are the very animals most likely to pass on the best genes to future generations. This is detrimental to the overall genetic health of a given species. If hunters really want to conserve a species, they should be required to kill only the old, sick and weak, just as other natural predators would do.

In the case of the Rhino hunt, perhaps the old, aggressive bulls are actually serving a purpose by keeping some (unknown to us) genetic balance in the herd.

Sep. 28 2015 01:00 PM
Richard from Ohio

I'm incredibly impressed that Robert let that condescending, small-minded dismissal be the last word on this episode. You're a better man than I am.

I'm a city person living and teaching in a small town, and I'm always shocked at so much of the rhetoric that I hear all the time both here and on this episode. The idea that white, Christian, conservative, American men are the #1 target of discrimination and persecution is gospel and impossible to argue with. While I think that you've done a great job of giving a lot of time and respect to that viewpoint, it was nice that you kept in the conversation where this guy cannot even conceive of the fact that anti-hunting conservationists have any interest in preserving animals or the idea that there are other ways of protecting endangered species other than allowing them to be hunted. It was a telling moment about how this man really sees the world.

Sep. 27 2015 03:24 PM
Cynthia Harrison

I don't deny the utility of "culling the herd." What I find disturbing is that he and other hunters take on the job of culling the herd because they enjoy killing animals for the fun of it.

Sep. 26 2015 01:47 PM
Daina from Georgia

For anyone who wants to talk garbage about this hunter or issue, actually listen to him talk to Joe Rogan about this which he did several months ago. He is not a bad person, and people should understand more about how conservation and balance works. Look at his face, and see where he's coming from. Not only that, but if you listen to other talks with hunters you'll find they aren't random killers. Nor are poachers in Africa always after money, sometimes it's food. It's an issue that is far too complex to just listen to one side, one podcast, and make a snap judgement. Radiolab's own Galapagos podcast highlights how complicated it is to keep species alive and in balance.

Sep. 26 2015 10:31 AM
Rich Sududsky

One of the most important podcasts I've listened to. Thank you for this.

Sep. 25 2015 09:01 AM
Jason from Gotham City

Although the hunter did not come out and say it, I believe the main reason that he loves hunting is because it brings back warm memories of time spent with his father. He seems to be a responsible hunter, his donations do some good, and I can respect that.

I think a bigger problem in this story is the fact that people would threaten to brutally kill the hunter (and if I recall correctly) and his family as well. I hope none of the people commenting about morality were responsible for the death threats.

There is nothing that is 100% good all of the time. There is nothing that is 100% bad all of the time. For example, it is not always bad to kill. Different people have different perspectives on what is right or wrong based on their lived experiences. The responsible way to deal with conflicting ideologies is to compromise. The irresponsible way to deal with differing ideologies is to demand that every do thing your way.

Sep. 24 2015 12:41 AM

Thank you for covering this story.

Sep. 23 2015 08:43 PM

To me, it's a question of how deeply humans aim to interfere in the "natural world" - the realm that we're intrinsically a part of but also believe ourselves to be apart from. On one hand, based on the facts presented here, eliminating a rhino that is dangerous to other rhinos would be a benefit to the species at large - and there are hunters willing to pay $350,000 to be the person who kills that rhino. That money, according to RL and Mr. Knowlton, goes to conservation efforts.

On the other hand, to value each rhino's life immeasurably and to stand aside if one is harming the rest of the population might have moral weight, but might also be detrimental to the species - nor does it provide that money for conservation.

I'd like to say, stay out of it - let nature decide how these animals live and die. But as Mr. Knowlton pointed out, that is no longer the world we live in. Humans and human society has influenced the natural world so fundamentally that it's difficult to imagine a scenario where we are completely separate and out of each other's way. Work for that goal - sure. But don't blame people like Corey Knowlton for paying to keep conservation efforts alive and taking the unenviable responsibility of killing rhinos that damage their population.

Sep. 23 2015 04:49 PM
Adrian Bachnivsky

I think I would have been more sympathetic to the man if it wasn't such a gigantic asshole. Privilege doesn't even begin to define how much of a dick this guy was to everyone involved on this podcast. He only gives a damn that he puts money towards allowing other like him the ability to shoot wild African game animals because some countries love the money it brings in. Who cares how much money he's given? The reason these things are endangered in the first place is men like him, "traditionalists" (read: conservatives) who refuse to change, even though better ways are out there, like Kenya's conservation efforts. At the end of the day what you have is "Rich, white man allowed to do whatever he wants because he is rich and he is white."

Sep. 22 2015 02:30 PM
Kathryn from Ohio

This was such a good topic, and judging by the comments I only wish it could have been presented in a way that would have swayed some more minds. I wonder how many of the people criticizing this man for hunting "for fun" have made meals of animal meat "for fun" and thought nothing of it because they didn't have to kill the animal themselves.

Mr. Knowlton is a realist, he says it himself, and I think a lot of people who object to his actions either are unaware of, or in denial of, reality. In an ideal world animals and people would have no conflicts, there would be no endangered species, and everyone would donate money to fund wildlife preservation. In the real world people and animals are competitors for resources, endangered species are managed by humans, and not enough people with ideals of saving the planet put their money where their mouth is. This type of hunting is the best way to get the most out of humans and give the most towards conservation; it is simple economics, and I think the folks over at Freakonomics have addressed it on more than one occasion (example here: By giving ownership of, and value to the living animals, the community around them does their best to keep those animals alive and happy.

(From what I heard though, Cecil seems to be a different case where the particulars of the legality of that hunt are much more shady.)

This situation reminds me of the giraffe that was culled by a Denmark zoo, with a similar amount of unjustified outrage.

Sep. 22 2015 11:27 AM
Joanna StJohn from New Jersey

As an addendum to my previous comment, I just wanted to suggest that both Robert Krulwich and Corey Knowlton read Tolstoy's "The First Step." It's very short. Mr. Krulwich mentioned that he has no moral objection to hunting. I think the first and most important objection is a moral one. Thanks.

Sep. 22 2015 09:56 AM
Joanna StJohn from New Jersey

I appreciate your willingness to take on such a difficult and emotional subject. I simply cannot comprehend this very deep desire some people have to kill an animal. Mr. Knowlton's billions of dollars may perhaps contribute to this desire since I can't imagine that he is wanting for anything in his life. Perhaps he's bored and needs to up the ante, to find some excitment in bloodlust. If you have enough money, it seems you can pay for the right to kill anything. He keeps talking about animals having a value, and by that he means a monetary value. But there are many of us who want to reframe the argument (the same argument was posited about leaving old growth forests alone, the same arguement was posited about whale hunting, the same argument is still being posited about seal hunting) - the value we talk about is the inherent value of both human life and animal life. Without assigning the very human component of money. Taking Mr. Knowlton's argument to an extreme, a poor person has no value, neither does an old one. Shall we have open season on each other? Mr. Knowlton does not seem able to cross the boundary of empathy between human and animal He still sits at the top of the food chain and decides who will live and who will die. Does he think an animal feels no pain? No fear? He has absolutely no sense of the inner life of anyone but himself. He argues his point while barely listening to any counter argument.
And, to segue, I've been reading that a lot of the money these bounty hunters pay, does not go back to conservation at all, but into canned hunting, the practice I think any sane human being would agree, is barbaric. Mr. Knowlton and that other corporate man expressed feeling good after the kill. There's something very wrong there. Killing should not give you a good feeling, even for humans with long canines. Hunting was done to provide food and was ritualized, not in order to make the hunters feel good, but to keep them from feeling bad. It's an absurd argument that we're responding to the deepest, most basic needs in ourselves by hunting animals. That actually used to be an argument for rape, believe it or not, and is still used in some countries as an explanation for "natural"behavior.

Sep. 22 2015 08:55 AM

So many negative comments ..

I found this episode interesting. Thank you for exploring a subject so often depicted in only one shade of black. I am not a hunter and I personally find the act of killing for pleasure rather sickening ..

Regardless, this might not have been the most neutral reporting RL has provided but it certainly has raised a very interesting ethical debate.

Personally, I think what should be derived from this episode is not an opinion on the neocolonialist paradigm or immoral act of hunting - but the root of the issue which is that the only method for functioning conservation is through killing.

That is slightly messed up and counter-effective. Can we have a system that does not rely on killing?

Also, I can't help but question: if the rhino had a voice and had to sacrifice his own life to support his population - would he take it?

Sep. 21 2015 08:02 PM

What stopped Mr. Knowlton from donating $350,000 to black rhino conservation efforts without killing one himself?

I agree with Mr. Knowlton that he lives in the real world. The sad reality is that someone like him will not donate large sums of money without receiving a license to kill. If he truly cared about protecting the species, he would donate his money without expecting anything in return.

"Until someone comes up with a methodology that we can look at and say this is a better way, I'm going to continue to fight and believe in the traditional model." - Mr. Knowlton

A better way was presented in the podcast. The better methodology is education. Education about how to conserve our resources. Education about how to live in balance with nature. Education that it is possible to donate to a good cause without expecting anything in return.

Why does hunting have to be a part of us? There are many things in history that are now embarrassments. Slavery was the "traditional" method, and there were many people who believed in it and fought for it. Fortunately we have moved on from such an atrocity.

If Mr. Knowlton donated the money without going on a trophy hunt, land managers could have euthanized the problem animal for less cost, and the money would have stretched farther. Unfortunately, euthanization is necessary because of human encroachment. I don't dispute that. Flying to Africa to kill a trophy is not euthanization.

You cannot argue with ignorance. Those like Mr. Knowlton are a lost cause; they refuse to spend their money trying to find a better methodology. The better methodology is to educate future generations about how to conserve. Educate children so their parents are embarrassed when their children ask them why they killed a critically-endangered animal.

A black rhino is priceless. To a trophy hunter, it's only worth $350,000.

Sep. 21 2015 03:15 PM

Wow -- what a steaming pile of horseshit. I've been a listener of Radiolab from the beginning but this episode was incredibly poorly researched and reasoned.

You devoted 95% of the show to a redneck trying to rationalize his blood lust and 5% to a voice of reason (Leakey)? Where was the discussion of the many existing alternatives to hunting to fund African conservation? Where were the interviews with conservation biologists, wildlife ecologists, aid workers, etc?

The fact is, the central thesis of the show -- that hunting by delusional white neocolonialists is the ONLY method to conserve endangered species -- is utter BS.

One could almost hear your "reporter" nodding credulously at the Texas redneck's every word. I guess that's happens when you assign a 20-something urbanite to an story that he obviously knows absolutely nothing about.

Minimally, you really need to do a follow-up episode discussing the other side of the story. If not, you've lost me as a listener.

Sep. 21 2015 02:39 PM
Dan from Calgary, Canada

Thank you RadioLab for your credible and sensible illumination of the hunter's enthusiasm for conservation. This is a point of view I am constantly trying to explain to the growing number of individuals who have decided hunting is evil before taking the time to have an intelligent discussion with an ethical hunter (we're excluding the trigger-happy rednecks here who simply would shoot anything and everything for the fun of it). Most critics of hunting, and it would appear most commenters here, don't understand that their view that killing an animal is unethical in now way negates the reality that hunters, who do kill animals, are sincere conservationist. The taker of an animal's life can still be interested in the ongoing health of that species' population. Believing that the taking of life is wrong doesn't change that fact. That, I think, is what Corey Knowlton and many other ethical hunters would say.

Sep. 21 2015 02:26 PM
Ashley from Albany, NY

I have had a hard time firming up my thoughts on trophy hunting as a means of conservation. I've noticed a lot of negative comments regarding this episode and while I understand where these complaints are coming from, I also want to point out that the episode is entitled, "The Rhino Hunter," implying that, for the most part, that was the narrative perspective we would be getting in this episode and I think that's important. I am not a hunter and never could be but I think both sides of the extreme (pro & anti hunting) too easily slip in to demonizing and reducing their "opponents" (hate to use that word) to caricatures so as to feel more comfortable in their moral superiority, whatever that may be - and I did notice Corey having a hard time accepting the duplicitous nature of trophy hunting in the first interview which was discouraging (the same way many commentators here are from the opposite end of the spectrum). The second and most important aspect, I think, of this podcast was bringing up the question - Why do we equate the worth of a thing, a living thing, with it's monetary value? As a global community this seems to be the case and it seems that if we want to see an end to trophy-hunting as a means of conservation then simply attacking those who pay the six figures to do it is not the answer, nor is rationalizing the hunting of a critically endangered species - we need to have a deeper conversation about the models we use to assign worth and if there's a way for things like conservation to exist outside of the capitalist system so that life doesn't need a hefty price tag to sustain its existence. That's a pretty tall order so best of luck RL!

Sep. 21 2015 01:35 PM
Abraham from Tokyo, JAPAN

Almost All Black Lives Matter!

This episode on Black Rhinos helped me realize just how America can solve the problems that confront Black Americans. This episode proved how the lives of plight of Rhinos improved drastically through auctioning of hunts. We could easily apply this logic to African Americans. Auction a hunt to cull some of those aggressive males. This will raise lots of money to improve the lives of all blacks, it will give their lives more economic value and it will rid the population of the members that are a danger to the community.

Wait a second, the more I write, the more it sounds like nonsense. Maybe you guys should of thought a little more deeply about what this episode was actually saying.

Sep. 21 2015 09:30 AM

Y'all can take your self-righteousness elsewhere. The bull was killing younger males and was a danger to its own kind. The people, who work with these animals on a daily basis, deemed it necessary to take him down. I have no quarrels with that going to the highest bidder. Yes, it's morally questionable. But keeping this insanely dangerous animals alive, just for the sake of keeping them alive, is equally morally questionable.

Sep. 21 2015 04:37 AM

The narrative of hunter-as-conservationist narrative has some pretty glaring flaws that were not explored in this show. Just one that I'd like to challenge: the unquestioned assumption that preserving a species is an important ethical goal in and of itself. The fact is that only individuals can suffer, when people (especially hunters) talk about the preservation of species they are really talking about their own desires. Specifically hunters' ability to murder members of a specific species into the indefinite future, or the rest of us knowing that a particular species still exists out there somewhere (etc.). Species qua species couldn't care less--species don't actually have any feelings or thoughts. So a species can't actually be said to suffer or benefit except by analogy. In reality only individuals have that capacity. Of course individual members of a species will suffer if there are too few fellow members of their species to socialize with, learn from, mate with etc. But the locus of the suffering or benefit is the individual, as you documented after the non-human animals in your story had been shot and were slowly bleeding to death.

Sep. 20 2015 09:19 PM

I think RadioLab missed an opportunity here to educate people about the broader issues of conservation. In previous episodes, RadioLab has explored the murkiness of the goals of conservation in today's world with well-reported, interesting, and multi-faceted stories. The Rhino Hunter does not live up to that standard. I understand that the point of this story was to humanize a character -or a character type - that is often demonized. The reason why I tune in to RadioLab and donate money to RadioLab, though, is because it frequently explores stories in both breadth and depth, and it often dives deeper into a topic to discover insights that are rarely found from other sources. This never happened in The Rhino Hunter. It was the story of a rich man who many people hate. Now I realize that the rich man considers himself to be a hero. And I heard Richard Leakey briefly explain why the rich man's ideas are ridiculous. But I never learned anything about rhinos, which was ostensibly the important topic to be explored here. Why do rhinos kill each other? Why do they not have predators? Has this always been the case? How has Namibia's political situation contributed to the rhino's situation? Why do we care about rhinos? What is the role of the rhino in their ecosystem? What other animals are affected by the success or failure of rhinos? Is there a reason to care about the downstream ecological effects of a rhino extinction? How would that extinction affect the people of Namibia? Why does it cost large sums of money to protect rhinos? Why does eco-tourism not provide enough money for this conservation effort? These questions were never addressed in this story. In fact, they were never even acknowledged. I hold RadioLab to a high standard, and this episode fell far short.

Sep. 20 2015 09:14 PM
Amy L Evans from Northern California

This was very hard to listen to. But interesting nonetheless.

Sep. 20 2015 07:22 PM
Janice Bellmore from Hawaii

Isn’t the overwhelming reason for declining animal populations anywhere in the world due to human encroachment, industrial development, human pollution and poaching?

Sep. 20 2015 03:12 PM
Jeffrey Barger

This hunter, and perhaps the reporters involved the long process of producing this piece, really would have benefited from stepping back, away from the article and its subjects for a broader external perspective. This man has, through his own system of self aggrandizement, has elevated his role in the conservation of species to unrealistic heights and imbued his participation in this manner of hunting with almost mythological characteristics. Somehow the myriad of organizations, on the ground and actively involved in the daily work necessary for species preservation, which include legions of biologists, veterinarians, other scientists, and laborers, have been overlooked and apparently not consulted. This hunter and his counterparts are participating in a high priced consumer good, and not much else, while possessing the overabundant ego typically present in such activities. However, participation this type consumer product falls on uneasily on the sentiments of most listeners, who find it repugnant. Unless, of course, the listener, or reporter, has been convinced by the hunters melodramatic, emotional, and allegorical presentation and has decided to purchase his snake oil. Conservation is actually at work on an organized and global degree with highly specialized and highly educated participants, who are unlikely to be at such a grave loss as to need his method of pseudo-heroic salvation. He likes how it feels when he imagines himself as being such a pivotal character in this animals existence and that he does it while toting his gun and paying his astronomical price adds exponentially to his fantasy, and apparently to the fantasy of the reporter. There is nothing new or remarkable in this person other than the price tag of certain kinds of self delusion.

Sep. 20 2015 05:07 AM
Gigi from AZ

Why not just donate? If your goal is conservation, why not just donate?

Sep. 19 2015 04:49 PM
Frans from Cape town RSA

Thanks guys for your shows and providing a provocative episode, once again. The culling of animals out of a population to improve the quality of the population is a common practice in wildlife management. Using the trophy sport to fund the wildlife management combined by the positive effect of culling is obviously a win/win in many of the cases. The purpose of removing the aggressive non productive males from the population is also something I can understand. The only thing that keeps bugging me is, for a species that is this close to extinction, is killing it the best solution? Could it not be possible to do a tranquilliser dart shoot and then sell or donate the animal to a zoo? This must be an alternative. The person paying for the hunt can be listed as beneficiary at the zoo and the animal can provide a positive contribution to wildlife awareness. It is a pity that not more of these angles were explored in the show.

Sep. 18 2015 03:03 PM

Although RL did a wonderful job of presenting the hunter's point of view and showing that there is a passion for conservation amongst them, they failed to mention that the money from hunting that goes into protecting these animals is a drop in the bucket compared to what eco-tourism brings in. There is no black and white answer to the morality of that particular hunt with the aging aggressive male, the danger he poses to other rhinos and to people (many local people see big game as destructive and dangerous). Another darker side that was not breached here is the farming of wild animals specifically for hunting, the cruel conditions they are kept in and the vast amounts of personal wealth generated for those farmers. Google "lion farming" for those interested.

Sep. 18 2015 12:36 AM

So I'm confused why doesn't he just donate $30,000 to wildlife preservation vs shooting the animal if he loves them so much?

Sep. 18 2015 12:24 AM
CJ from Australia

Here is a great thought experiment.

For non hunters, imagine they were paying to Hug the animal not shoot it... thats the way hunters feel.

For Hunters, imagine they are paying to have sex with the animal... thats the way non-hunters feel about what he is doing.

Conservation is great.
Hunting is disgusting.

Sep. 17 2015 09:29 PM

Does Zimbabwe Really Need Trophy Hunting?

Sep. 17 2015 08:32 PM
Noel T from Portland

I feel bound to comment on this video. I like that you explain the point of view of hunters and wildlife conservative parties. However, you fail to mention that Cecil was killed illegally and was not killing other lions. He was the leader of the pack and had cubs. That was the problem. The hunter who killed him should have known that his guide were hunting illegally and their method were fishy to begin with.

Sep. 17 2015 05:55 PM
Amy Sandberg from Minneapolis, MN

I really enjoyed this episode. It's nice to hear the less-told side of the story. Conservation is a huge part of hunting and it's great to hear that expressed by the media.

Sep. 17 2015 11:01 AM
KL from Vancouver, BC

I am rather repulsed at the prospect of killing majestic animals for pleasure, but given the current state of affairs, I have to side with the hunter. To me, the bottom line is: if we assume it is true that it costs $X to keep many wild animals alive and the only way to raise $X is to allow the hunting of a few wild animals, then we should allow hunting. Logically, I don't see how this can be argued.

If there is another party that is willing to donate $X without asking to kill any animals, they clearly would have the moral high ground, and hunting should be banned. But I assume no such party exists, or hunting wouldn't be used to fund conservation.

Many seem to be morally outraged at this, and compare it to allowing the hunting of one human to raise money to save other humans. This would of course be outrageous, but we are not talking about humans here. If you ask the question: Do you think we should kill one human to save many humans, the answer is clearly no. But if you ask: Should we kill a few rhinos to save many, I would say yes. Because I value the life of rhinos far less than humans. I like animals, but I would probably kill 100 puppies with a dull spoon to save a single human child. I would seriously question the moral judgment of anyone that wouldn't.

Infact, if we assume that hunting is currently the ONLY way to raise sufficient funds for conservation efforts, and that poaching is the primary method by which rhino populations are being decreased, then the question really becomes: Do you want to allow the death of a few rhinos by hunting or many rhinos by poaching? The choice is obvious, both morally and logically.

I am being overly simplistic with my assumptions here. Of course, if there is a way to reduce poaching without injecting money, for example by reducing demand for rhino horns, or by decreasing the amount of money required such that revenue from charity is sufficient and revenue from hunting is no longer needed, for example with new technology (GPS/drone tracking or whatever), then clearly these should be done. But given my stated assumptions (which seem to be representative of the actual state of things), if you want to minimize the number of animals killed, you should support hunting.

Overall, great episode that informed me of a side of hunting I had never heard of before. Keep it up Radiolab!

Sep. 17 2015 12:12 AM
Lisa Chen

Am I the only one who thinks that the Texas Millionaire sounds like Phillip Seymore Hoffman?

Sep. 16 2015 08:08 PM
Chelsea G. from West LA

I have only been a Radio Lab listener for the past few months, but after listening to this particular episode I may have to stop. I sat in silence for about an hour on my Hwy 5 drive stewing over what fools this Rhino Hunter turned you into. I felt insulted, and as a practical Animal Rights Activist I am just appalled that both sides of the story were not represented. No matter if you guys disagreed with him, which that comes through only a little, this hunter was glorified in the end of this episode. He got the best of you. You failed to deliver an story that had all the facts.

I could rant for days, but like I said I'm practical. So, I ask you this... If you cared so much about a species why couldn't just donating the money and having like a wing named after you on the reserve be enough? What happens when the population of these animals actually grows back to a reasonable size, will they still be hunted for conservation? The "reserves" will always need money. What about their "price tag" as more of them are being brought back? Kill a black Rhino for only $1000! Was that antelope (or similar) creature in the episode that got shot several times old and on his way out? Didn't seem like it. There is no justification for trophy hunting, and people who don't hunt donate billions of dollars to help these animals out as well. You claimed this method was "working", but we all know that is not the only way. I am just baffled at how one sided this story was.

I kept listening to this episode hoping it would talk about both sides, but all I ended up with was an upset stomach and a feeling as if I had been duped.

Sep. 16 2015 02:53 PM
Erika from New Mexico

i felt quite humbled by this excellent episode. I have to admit a great deal of prejudice to the hunters as the episode began. I still feel an emotional response against the colonial aspect of the access rich have in Africa. And I personally can enjoy nature without killing, but I can appreciate a genuine look at the issue instead of hateful rhetoric from opposing views. We could sure advance as a society with more reporting like this.

Sep. 16 2015 02:50 PM
Bryan Moulton from Spencerport, NY

This reminds me of some of the deeper themes in the movie "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance". I am specifically thinking of where John Wayne literally murders a man in a cowardly manner (hidden from site in a dark alley) to help his friend and facilitate the transition of the west from a barbaric free-for-all to a more evolved - law abiding - society.

Could Knowlton and his ilk be our John Wayne? Could this type of "conservation" help us transition from the current status to a better relationship with these animals? And what would that "better relationship" look like?

It would have been interesting to learn more about the long term vision for this type of conservation and explore the potential it may - or may not - offer us to transition to a place where people don't "bump into" these animals... perhaps even allowing us to realistically consider alternatives to hunting/killing/murdering for conservation/sport.

Sep. 16 2015 09:33 AM
Jas Madhavan from Columbus, OH

Simon and Matthew, thank you for a very unbiased and straight-from-the-heart podcast on the rhino hunt. I thought Corey did a great job in explaining his point of view and I subscribe to the same. I love to hunt and I believe that well regulated hunting has been shown to lift the numbers of wildlife in almost all places where it has been instituted. Mr. Leakey may have is views but he presided over a failed wildlife conservation effort in Kenya, once the only country that banned hunting and also the only place where the elephant population took a big hit. Mr. Leakey's ideas may be with good intentions, but good intentions have never been shown to improve anyone's ilk. Poaching has been an epidemic under your guest's administration in Kenya. Namibia and South Africa have shown what well regulated hunting can do for animal populations. Look at South Africa, a country now known for political integrity, but in spite of this, the RSA continues to show how good management of wildlife will result in a significant increase in their numbers.
Thanks again for the great podcast. I continue to enjoy all the Radiolab podcasts.

Sep. 15 2015 09:16 PM
Nancy Richardson from Los Angeles

Every time I read about these poor rich people getting death threats from people who don't support trophy hunting, I kind of wonder if these people who claimed they were threatened are prepared to prove it. The story doesn't ring true on many levels, but you let it go on challenged because "Simon" appeared terrified of this guy. Also, it seems to me that your rhino killer wasn't able to justify the "great white hunter" model indulging in conservation, when you really have to know that most of the money which is paid for these hunts go into bribes, bribes, and more bribes, and never truly has any effect on conservation efforts. This show was bad journalism where your guy Simon was bullied and intimidated by a guy who is ultra defensive about his need to kill things. It makes no sense that blood sport, the killing helpless old animals saves species.....which then exist to be killed in canned hunts. This show was not among your best, Radio Lab.

Sep. 15 2015 06:19 PM
Ben from Helena, mt

Great episode. Unfortunately, a lot of negative comments here. I'd bet none are from anyone who has spent the amounts of time, money, and energy as Corey on actually preserving wildlife. If nothing else I think that earns him the right to have a modest platform to explain himself. Or at least show he's a decent guy with a nuanced view and is undeserving of death threats to his family.

Sep. 15 2015 06:07 PM

By God, what nonsense arguments people will go through in order to justify their actions. This time Radiolab took the wrong route and got their hands washed in blood! Very unfortunate episode.

Sep. 15 2015 05:35 PM
Teresa from United States

I'm a long-time fan of radio lab, but this episode was incredibly disappointing. Not only was the argument that hunting is the most effective way to fund conservation go totally unchallenged (and it's not, by the way, as numerous reputable sources have noted), but aside from a few minutes with Leakey, there was zero mention of an alternative.
In reality, plenty of people, including myself, spend money going to view animals, not kill them. The animals are therefore still there for the next group of paying tourists.
I hope a future episode explores the reality that killing does not equate to conservation.

Sep. 15 2015 02:43 PM
Slim Buttes from NW Neb

First of all, thank you radiolab. I am a person who hunts and I have shared this story with many fellow hunters. The minds of anti-huntiers will never be changed, but thankfully people who are non-hunters can see the benefits of regulated hunting.

The truly sad part is that before the auction there were estimates that the rhino tag would go for upwards of 1 million dollars. unfortunately because of threats of violence many who would have paid even more were afraid to bid.

Again thank you RL

Sep. 14 2015 06:09 PM
Feral Boy from St. Louis

Why not give hunters paintball guns, and charge them the same (if it's about making money for conservation)? Then EVERYONE who wants to say they "killed" a rhino can do so. No problem to use a 3D printer to make them a trophy afterwards, too.

Sep. 14 2015 05:10 PM
Sharon from NY state

nother major piece of how hunting funds, almost exclusively, was completely omitted from the conversation in the first half of this podcast about how hunting funds wildlife conservation. It is not just payment for hunting lotteries and tags that, but also a substantial tax on hunting firearms, ammunition and other equipment. These funds are distributed by the federal government to the states, where it is committed to wildlife conservation and management actions and research to inform these actions. It would be helpful to have a more thorough set of information to inform the many folks who don't actually know this. Recent efforts in several states to add a tax, for conservation, to wildlife watching equipment, such as binoculars and field guides, have largely failed to pass.

Sep. 14 2015 04:05 PM
Tyson from Alexandria, VA

Over all, I enjoyed this segment, but I felt it fell short of RL's usual productions on two fronts. One, the reporter never pursued how much of the money actually made it to the game preserve to support the animals that live there. Out of $350K, is it half? More? Less?

Also, there were several production slip ups. At least three duped segments (wait, have I heard this before?), and two omitted segments (one in the middle of the Leakey interview, and another at the end when you were thanking Ellen for her work upon her departure).

As for the content, I agree with other comments that Knowlton's circular argument in favor of shooting these animals is abhorrent. We're not talking about deer bursting a local ecosystem's seams. There are a few thousand of these creatures left. And for the sake of the animal shot, why so inept at shooting. Both the Swede and Knowlton shouldn't be shooting game if it takes 4-8 shots to do the job.

Sep. 14 2015 04:01 PM

This was the most biased commentary that I have had the displeasure of encountering in some time. How the amount of money afforded by a person of wealth with too much time on their hands can justify a glorified kill is beyond comprehension in a world which undervalues natural resources of any living variety. That self-aggrandizing adults can fail to see beyond themselves will always, thankfully, remain a mystery to most people who love and respect our planet. Money gathered from wealthy hunters who are preserving wildlife, by the virtue of the kill, to promote conservation? Who are we kidding here? Look closely at where that money goes and how it is actually distributed. The joke is apparent. Unfortunately, it is a very bad joke.

Sep. 14 2015 03:57 PM
Chris from Berkeley, CA

I'd like to propose a program where you can pay $1 million to hunt an individual of the species Homo sapiens in an impoverished nation. Not only will you help with the overpopulation of the species in areas of the world without the resources to support all individuals, but the $1 million will actually be spent for things like education and infrastructure. Although some may be concerned about killing the Homo sapiens against their will, it is important to keep in mind that this will benefit the species as a whole. In furtherance of this goal, we will limit the hunts to physically and mentally disabled individuals who are completely unproductive and dependent on society.

Sep. 14 2015 03:07 PM
AJ from Michigan

I really enjoyed this story. I went into it with thoughts of how horrible these hunters are, and I left with a much better understanding of the conservancy situation as it currently exists. I am thankful for excellent the insight into stories like this.

Sep. 14 2015 01:32 PM
Frank from South Dakota

Many comments suggest that we have a moral obligation to never kill animals. This is an argument that one would have to support. Many of us accept the utilitarian argument that killing one animal to save ten is a good idea. You cannot apply deontology and the work of Kant to animals as if they were humans without supporting your decision to do so.

The main argument against killing animals for large sums of money should not be that we have a moral obligation to never kill animals. Instead, it should be about the effect on human perception that such practices might engender. If we allow this type of activity, does it reduce wild animals to trophies to be bid on. To see an amazing animal like a rhino as nothing but a trophy would be a huge loss to society.

This argument, or others like it could be effective. However, giving animals human moral status will invalidate your argument with those of us who believe that is an error, and I believe that is the majority of people.

Sep. 14 2015 12:10 PM
Christy from South Africa

As a South African who hears about rhino poaching almost daily I found this episode very interesting. Particularly because it explained how hunters are vilified and hated by so many, but said nothing about poaching or poachers and didn't explain why the rhino is endangered, or why rhino horn is more expensive than gold.

In 2012 there were 668 rhino poached in the year in South Africa alone. That's almost two a day. And everyone is getting upset about one person who pays a lot of money, some of which goes to conservation, and is going on a legitimate controlled hunt. The whole thing just seems absurd.
Surely a little more focus on the poaching that is decimating the rhino population and endangering it would have been useful?

If people really give a damn about rhinos, why don't they do something to stop the demand for rhino horn? Maybe some education in Asia, where rhino horn is a popular Chinese medicine, would let people know where the rhino horn actually comes from and what the consequences are of getting it. Perhaps if they were faced with the images of massacred rhino left to die in a field with their bloody stump where their horn used to be, they would think twice about buying rhino horn.

Just hearing about how upset people were about hunting seemed completely over the top. Try Googling rhino poaching and have a look at those images - there is something to get upset about. The poachers are people worth vilifying. Why is nobody protesting outside their premises or the places where rhino horn is sold?

Sep. 14 2015 09:57 AM
JonS from Sacramento

Thanks for this thoughtful program. As a hunter myself, though, I'm disappointed in Cory's inability to recognize that other people who disagree with his choice of killing an endangered species also wish to protect the species.

Cory's position is clearly more informed by emotion and memories of his father than logic-- if he really was about protecting rhinos he could of simply donated the money he paid for the hunt, and saved the Namiibian authorities the expense of flying him over and touring him around the bush. They could have dispatched this so-called problem rhino themselves (with probably less suffering-- anybody who can't hit a truck-sized mammal in one shot isn't much of a marksman).

His inability to recognize another approach to conserve a species is willful ignorance of the success of the endangered species act, shared by many on his side of the political spectrum. I don't recall any bald eagle hunts being raffled back in the eighties, but somehow we have a lot more bald eagles today.

Many hunters care for the critters they hunt, and have contributed to their conservation in many ways. But hunters have also contributed to the extinction of species as well (passenger pigeon, anyone?). To assign some sort of unique power to hunting, while ignoring the contributions of "non-extractive" conservationists, is a construct that only makes sense in the "real world" of Cory's big money buddies, one I doubt populist Teddy Roosevelt would condone.

Sep. 14 2015 01:51 AM
Jason S from the Grand Canyon!! from Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA

When I first began listening to this specific program I thought for sure that RadioLab was just going to jump on the ultra-emotional 'anti-hunting' bandwagon following the whole 'Cecil' episode.
However I must admit I was pleasantly shocked when RadioLab actually explored hunting and conservationism from the hunters perspective! Yes, I AM a hunter, though I haven't killed anything in several years! To me hunting is not simply about KILLING an animal, it is the entire range of experience of being out in the wild with nature and all of its creatures; the web of LIFE!
I'm fairly certain that most of the folks with negative comments here live in large metropolitan areas around the globe and really don't experience much in the way of wilds, wilderness nor wildlife, outside of a zoo or a program on the tele!! I LIVE and WORK at Grand Canyon National Park in the USA. I get the opportunity to view and interact with un-hunted (by humans) and hunted wildlife (just outside of the Park) on a daily basis, and yes this is a region remote from the metropolitan sprawl!! In fact, there are hunts going on just south of here at present for bull elk and it is totally legal and well regulated!!
The thing that so many people who consider themselves 'conservationist/environmentalist' can't seem to come to grips with is that humans ARE part of the WEB OF LIFE and have been hunting big game for upwards of 5 million years or more!! (Just ask Richard Leakey interviewed for this show, though it was omitted that he himself is a world renowned anthropologist as were his mother and father Louis and Mary!!) Many American 'conservationists' love to quote our president Theodore Roosevelt regarding the early stages of American conservationism and the creation of the National Park Service here in the USA. One of the things they choose to omit is that this early conservationism was based upon the desire for a future for hunting. Before there was Grand Canyon National Park and the NPS, there was the Grand Canyon National Game Preserve on the North Rim. It was an utter failure, in part because they banned the hunting of the very mule deer they were trying to preserve and protect!
Though this program focused on the monetary contribution of extremely wealthy hunters, all hunters in America contribute with their money and interest as well!! Interestingly enough RadioLab did not delve into many details of the African National Parks and Game Preserves nor their impact on indigenous cultures, many of whom not only relied on the lands they traditionally resided upon for millennium, but the very big game species that they traditionally hunted upon those lands!! If one wishes to address 'neocolonialism' in Africa, one needs look no further that the very National Parks and Game Preserves, created mostly through the influence of wealthy Western conservation organizations, which forced native peoples off their traditional lands!

Sep. 13 2015 11:29 PM
John from OH

Couldn't he just pay the money and not hunt?

Sep. 13 2015 09:27 PM
Alice J from Seattle

Is the point that you have to kill animals to conserve them the same as you have to have war to ensure peace?

Sep. 13 2015 02:16 PM
Roderick from Union City, New Jersey

In the interest in putting forth a story on the vicarious pleasures of following a big game hunter, RL missed an opportunity to make their report a robust offering of the best practices of wildlife conservation. They opted instead to do what most journalists do these days; they place reporter access over journalistic integrity. They resisted upsetting the apple cart, seeking not to offend the great white hunter by challenging his weak defense of his positions.

Yes, they raise money. However, the money they raise is dwarfed by organizations such as the WWF. And like any non-profit, there needs to be a public accounting of how much money goes into administrative costs, and how much money actually trickles down to its intended target, i.e., in this case the endangered species. Where were the numbers in their report? RL prides itself on its scientific perspective. Where are the numbers?

They allowed the great white hunter to use the excuse that people eat lamb, but failed to broach the subject of the non-sustainable paradigm of the human consumption of meat. Using one wrong to justify another wrong does not make either right. Again though, RL failed to flesh out the facts. What needed to take place is a revelation of what percentage of the world's human population eat meat, where the practice of meat eating is greatest, what are trends toward a more vegetarian diet, and what are the end points if we continue to use meat as a chief food source worldwide. (This is of considerable importance since China has surpassed us in meat consumption.) About 14% of the world's human population is undernourished, yet we're still eating a low yield source of nutrition, i.e., meat. But instead RL gave the hunter alliance a soapbox from which to make the same tired and poor analogy.

RL allowed the great white hunter to make emotive appeals to his ambiguous feelings of concern for wildlife conservation. So we're to believe that his contrived and well-planned emotional moment make him sympathetic to the great beasties of Africa? I'm not buying it. His emotions were calculated. His emotional approach was incongruous with his stated objectives. Even with his admission that he enjoys killing animals, I find him to be disingenuous. I find his entire lifestyle to be exploitative.

And the fine folks on the gaming reserve. Oh yes, they were much like our great white hunter, conflicted over hunting wildlife. This is their bread and butter. They're not conflicted over taking thousands of dollars leading Europeans on hunting excursions. But RL played up their host's emotional expression of pity for the suffering animals. Your reporter made the mistake of liking his subjects. He ended up sympathizing with them.

And all you had to show for it was Richard Leakey's two-minute objection. But yes Robert, "make space." And you let the great white hunter shut you down. This is not a naive notion, the WWF purchases millions of acres for this purpose.

A terrible episode.

Sep. 13 2015 11:39 AM
David Pirtle from DC

From an economic and conservation perspective, ecotourism is far more valuable than trophy hunting.

Sep. 13 2015 10:56 AM

Brilliant episode, never thought I`d find myself on the fence in regards to hunting.
On a different note, would anyone happen to know the name of the song/arist that was used at around minute 22?


Sep. 13 2015 06:04 AM

You guys usually do brilliant podcasts, but I wish you'd been more prepared for this one. For instance, no comment to this guy's (the hunter) circular and endlessly repeated (during the program) half-baked argument that hunting funds conservation. as if they're the only ones who do. How about just giving the money. as true conservationists do? rich or less rich people all give money to conservation without expecting to 'get' something for it. We're happy to have these creatures walk this earth with us, admire them, and take nothing more destructive that photographs. Why can hunters not do the same?

Answer: because they can never bring themselves to explain that creepy bloodlust they have, and that sense of entitlement. Yes we all eat meat, but that's a specious argument. Killing a highly endangered species to purportedly "conserve" it absolutely sends the wrong message. At the worst possible time too: that's the core of the issue. that's what enrages the public. That's the the point all hunters are evading. How much of that money in fact went to conservation, and how much to the lodge and owners? probably not much more than tourism, or un-entitled giving.

In a way, these so-called men are not much better than the nation that thinks of rhino horn as a male organ enhancer: something to show the world what a 'man' they are by killing it.

and how about making hunting a real sport and give the prey a chance to defend itself: how about these individuals work off some excess weight by chasing them down on foot, with weapons equal to those of their quarry? now that would be exciting. I wonder how much of these over-fed people would be prepared to risk their own lives in taking down a trophy.

Speaking of trophies: no mention was made of how hunters do not benefit the wild as natural predators do because they always take the best specimens, while predators take the ailing and weakest, leaving the best individuals to continue a fitter bloodline. Hunters, have you even managed to think that far and come up with a defense for that aspect?

Sep. 12 2015 06:02 PM
David from UK

Really interesting episode. It is true that in the reality in which we live, conservationists need to find a way to incentivise conservation (or even to create financial value for conservation). It may well also be true that some animals need to be killed for broader conservation purposes. It is certainly true that most people welcome wealthy individuals funding conservation. But doing so on condition that you get to carry out the killing of an animal suggests rather more complicated motives.

Consider this (imperfect but revealing) analogy: what would you think of a philanthropist who would only fund social projects on the condition that they got to carry out the death sentence of someone on death row?

Sep. 12 2015 05:39 PM
michelle from montana

Your podcast did not explore the graft concerned with these actions. Not that much goes to save wildlife. Must of it goes into the pockets of corrupt government. Humans have wiped out so many large species that any thing you say about 'saving' wildlife is a joke.

Sep. 12 2015 10:14 AM
Alex D'Amore-Braver

Though not a hunter myself, I agree with Mr. Knowlton, and even more so with Steph, the hunting guide. The problem with all of this public outrage over hunting is that all of those expressing outrage are equally, if not more so, implicated in the destruction of endangered species, by supporting and benefiting from a quagmire of human development that reduces space for wildlife. As discussed in this episode, many people (and probably most Radiolab listeners) live in cities, and view wildlife and their habitats as abstractions, or as Robert said "a safe place". As Corey pointed out, that is an unrealistic view. As long as there are resources available, including space, humans will take them for their own use. If private landowners cannot make money from keeping their land wild, they will kill the wildlife and replace them with agricultural or other ventures. It is only when wildlife have financial value that these landowners would agree to keep them around. The human race in modern context does not work on moral imperative. One could argue it never did. It is ridiculously idealistic to believe otherwise. The only way to communicate value across cultural and situational views of morality is to give that value a price tag.

Sep. 12 2015 09:17 AM

Very interesting piece. Here is a thought...
In my job I try to get farmers to keep (introduced) out deer of areas of bush on their land. The deer damage the bush pretty badly. The farmers, for the most part love to hunt - so they won't get rid of the last deer. They always leave a few. Like it or not when things have value people will often make sure they don't disappear.

Sometimes it feels like I have the perfect strategy for pest deer conservation....

anyone else see the parallels?

Sep. 11 2015 10:48 PM
seth from Los Angeles

"who wants to live next door to a raging psychopathic beast that's killing things? No one."


Not your best work Radiolab... just over all with this one, topic aside it sounded like Simon wanted to be Corey's little hunting trip buddy more than a reporter. And given that many people feel killing animals is murder you could of handled the hunt better. You were more sensitive to your "npr" audiences' feelings trying to do a story on football than this.

Sep. 11 2015 05:08 PM
Rudy from Los Angeles

This episode was really striking! The article brought forth the needed conversation of the morality of hunting. I usually do all my hunting and gathering at the local supermarket or fast food restaurant. I really do like chicken in my salad and a nice steak at dinner time. Does that make me immoral, as I am partaking in eating of flesh. The Corporate America has taken the hunting and killing sequence out of our hands, so Americans only have to experience the eating. Consequently corporate infrastructures are always looking for the most efficient avenue to provide me those products. Back to the issue at hand, hunting, as I have indicated I am far and removed from the process of hunting. Rather than cast judgment I would like to hear more conversations on the subject. I would also like to hear interviews with the staff at ground zero, how the hunting effect them. We know about the corruption, what about the locals who conduct the hunting. The individuals who provide the support for the hunt. Do they benefit from the monies being circulated as a part of the hunting expedition (Hotels, rentals, guides, etc). This is their country, what is their opinion on the hunting issue?

Sep. 11 2015 04:16 PM

As usual, those who by default advocate war, unrestricted gun ownership and shooting endangered wild animals, etc. remain unchallenged in their nonsense argumentation and given far too much credibility.

Sep. 11 2015 03:51 PM

Great show guys!

Everyone angry enough to post your outrage that radiolab looked at a subject form a lens you are uncomfortable with, ask yourself this, "If this did show to be an effective way to stave off extinction of a species, would I be behind it?". If your answer is yes, congrats you are a conservationist. If your answer is no, then you may want to take up a new cause...all false arguments aside, altruism is not going to go save the elephants!

Sep. 11 2015 03:38 PM
Jeff from Los Angeles

I think the point which gets glossed over too frequently is "this black rhino is going to be killed whether someone buys the $300,000 dollar tag or not"

The killing of the animal is for conservation, if the hunting of the rhino was prohibited than a government worker would have shown up monday morning to do the dirty work. Sure these animals would die of old age if we were not around, but they are a literal risk to their own habitat after they are no longer capable of reproduction. If one non-reproductive rhino kills one female, you have to wonder how many generations and possible rhinos we have lost out on, because "hunting/killing is bad". It baffles me, we are a conscious, and intelligent being, arguably one of the only ones in existence. Why should we not be able to aid this animal in it's recovery process from our own mishandling.

Lot's of comments on here also talk about how it is wrong to kill an animal. This is a much tougher issue to tackle, and all I have to say on the issue is, you are a killer. Your DNA is of a savage animal that has killed off several species over thousands of years to bring us where we are today. If you think that carnal feeling of enjoying killing is wrong, then we are all wrong, because this feeling is hardwired. But of course this brings us to the topic of, "if one person can suppress their desire to hunt why can't you" You can of course say the same for alcoholism, drug addiction or even sexuality.


Sep. 11 2015 03:35 PM
Sierra from Kansas

Personally, I find trophy hunting to be weird and somewhat distasteful. However, I don’t believe that individuals who do it legally are evil people. I also don’t believe that they are deserving of the internet’s wrath. (Very few people really are, in my opinion.) I like to think I am enough as a pragmatist to understand that there is a place for trophy hunting. Sometimes hunting is needed to cull pest species, or to prevent a native species from overshooting its environment and thereby degrading it. Sometimes hunting is even necessary to provide funds for the preservation of endangered animals. I honestly don’t think that trophy hunting is ethically worse than eating factory-farmed meats. If anything, a stuffed trophy animal would get far more respect dead than a factory farmed cow alive. And anyway, don’t we have more important things to be outraged about than legal big-game hunting? (And this is coming from someone who identifies as a far-left liberal.)

Sep. 11 2015 03:08 PM
Andrew from Sacramento, CA

To the people ripping on RadioLab for this episode, I say step back and reconsider your harsh judgements. They went out on a limb to tell a complex story that I'm sure they knew would potentially rile up many of their viewers. This sort of issue needs to be discussed in the context of conservation as a whole, and releasing it around the time of the Cecil furor was a useful counterpoint to the outrage. When public opinion becomes as aggressively one-sided as it did, they released a thoughtful discussion as a counterbalance. Thanks for putting out this alternate opinion, guys; I thoroughly enjoyed it. Keep it up.

Sep. 11 2015 01:47 PM

No numbers, no science, no explication of an argument of morality vs. utilitarianism, no incisive questions, no real consistency of theme except for the fact that the entire show was just about one story ...

A lot of commenters who are dropping criticisms on this are more disappointed that you didn't represent the environmentalist pov strongly enough. I'm all for objectivity, the problem is that you didn't represent EITHER side with an ounce of intellectual rigor.

Right. The. Ship. Please.

Sep. 11 2015 12:12 PM
Mad Hieronimo

Ah, City Folk. Yum.

Sep. 11 2015 03:19 AM

I agree with many of the other comments. You didn't ask a single challenging question and you let him interrupt and pretend to cry whenever you started down a line of thinking he didn't like.

Probably the most obvious question was "why not just donate $320,000 to a conservation group?" or "do you hunt animals just for sport as well, or is it only when you are doing it for 'conservation'?"

It's pretty clear this has nothing to do with conservation. He wants to touch their dead eyeball, eat their flesh, and feel important.

Sep. 11 2015 03:16 AM
Grenadier from Arizona

Radio Lab friends, as is so often the case, you've produced an interesting story while, somehow, failing to ask hard questions.

First, does animal life have any intrinsic value? Knowlton implies that it doesn't when he says that we must assign a price to wild creatures to make them worth saving. Only halfway through the episode do we hear the suggestion that animal life may be worth saving for reasons that are non-monetary, but the idea isn't well explored and it is never presented to Knowlton for comment. Does he think human life only has the value markets assign to it? If not, it would be relevant to know why he thinks animal life and human life have different values. Someone should have asked him about this--this story could have drawn upon some of the questions you tried to explore when you asked about the value of a life in an earlier episode.

Second, even if we accept Knowlton's assertion that animal life only has market value, it does not follow that trophy hunting is the only way to assign value. Yet nobody from Radio Lab challenged Knowlton on this assertion or, for that matter, his claim that trophy hunting to promote conservation is more "realistic" than other methods. Is there evidence for this? Typically, when interviewees frame their responses as "the only realistic answer" they're dodging a question and need to be pressed.

Ultimately, timid reporting is the flaw in the episode. Knowlton seems like a decent guy and he's been subjected to a barrage of disgusting abuse and threats that nobody deserves. It's easy to understand why Adler (who also seems like a decent guy) would feel awkward challenging him on his underlying moral assumptions or his interpretation of what is "realistic." When you're face to face with someone, especially someone you find sympathetic, it's hard to cross-examine their ideas--but that's exactly what good journalism should do.

Radio Lab, we love you. You bring us so many fascinating, odd, and unexpected stories. But please, please get tougher with your interviews. And please stop ending your episodes with gutless moral relativism.

Sep. 11 2015 01:05 AM

Let me start by saying I DON'T think hunters are horrible ppl. It's obvious they believe they are helping the animals they care about, and they know what it means to kill for food, which most meat eaters don't nowadays.
BUT Corey Knowlton seems pretty closed to any other conservation methods that have also been proved to work, believing only in his "traditional ways".

I agree with Richard Leakey, killing animals to raise conservation awareness sends the wrong message. Obviously it only gets the public furious against hunters and does NOT redirect the attention on the real issue: conservation of these endangered species. It is necessary to promote eco-tourism based on living animals, like photo safaris and the like, to drive the message home that a living rhino is worth more than a dead one. And leave the population management to professional park rangers.

It was a great episode, but a bit too focused on the hunter perspective and not enough on the working alternatives.

Sep. 10 2015 11:15 PM
Zade from Brisbane, Australia

I have heard the argument supporting "conservation" hunting for economic reasons before, as I have also heard the argument for putting an intrinsic financial value on wilderness areas in order to conserve them as well. However, the problem here is that it's not addressing the main issue that is causing destruction of the environment and the ecological system, which is in fact the economic priorities of our financial institutes and governments. The worth of an animal alive is so much more in tourism than it is for the animal dead, and the value of a life for should be considered priceless. The argument that these animals need poachers to kill their own species in order to conserve them is ludicrous and morbid, because these animals have lived for hundred's of thousand's of years without humans killing select male species, because it's only the human issue of putting an intrinsic value on poaching for superstitious or materialistic reasons that is driving them to decline, and therefore if the hunters TRULY cared about the animals, they would absolutely not enjoy shooting them to death, but rather use their own money along with the millions of dollars that their businesses don't have to pay in taxes, to fund campaigns against the illegal trade of wild or exotic animals around the world!

Sep. 10 2015 09:41 PM

It's amazing what twisted logic a person will use to rationalize their abhorrent behavior to themselves. This guy is clearly not bothered by the loss of 350K otherwise he would never have agreed to bid on the permit (a dubious story to begin with, btw, but I'll give him that one). And he's so adamant about his commitment to conservation, yet can conceive of not a single method of aiding conservation other than killing animals. Let me set an example for Mr. Knowlton:
Guess how much money I've donated to conservation efforts in my life? More than zero.
Guess how many animals I've murdered in return for those donations? Zero.
I was honestly perplexed for a few minutes during the episode, trying to understand why he felt obligated to kill the rhino, despite the fact that he claimed to have no desire to do it.

This is just another guy who wants it both ways, doing with the world as he pleases but taking no responsibility for his deeds, and attempting to avoid reprimand with a sob story about his unloving father and this nonsensical attempt to justify doing what he wants, whenever he wants. In Knowlton's world, the rich make the laws and they don't even feel bad when they screw everyone else over, because they convince themselves it was fair.

Sep. 10 2015 07:10 PM
Ben from New York,NY

This was a great perspective on the world of modern trophy hunting and it really shed light on the idea of creating economic value for natural wildlife - something that I had not considered. I believe that this is one of my favorite episodes to date. Thank you!

Sep. 10 2015 04:54 PM
Hilda from Curacao

I think it's important to note the differences between trophy hunting and poaching, which many commentators seem to have missed. The stories in this episode do not include or condone ANY poaching. Trophy hunting provides a legal means of hunting and species management, while providing funding for the park. Poaching targets pays no regard to species, returns no funds to the park, and often leads to depletion of native wildlife, ecosystems and local communities. I think we can all agree that poaching is bad. Trophy hunting is a bit more subjective, it may not appeal to you, that's fine. But it is monitored.

OF COURSE the case of Cecil was bad, but it was the fault of the guides and not the dentist. Yes, the tracking of the lion was also bad, but if you are personally affronted by this story let me ask you: when was the last time you donated $55K to wildlife conservation? $1000? $5? Have you been to any wildlife conservation parks in the continent of Africa to view the effects of poaching? Withdrawing of eco-tourism would be devastating to so many of these species.

Feel free to disagree with hunting, but I urge you to consider how close to the cause and how much Corey Knowlton has done for eco-tourism. I really support Corey, I think they did a wonderful job with this episode.

Sep. 10 2015 04:34 PM

As a former "hunter" I enjoyed your program. I grew up on a farm in Kansas and my hunting was to control predators who threatened our farm animals or animals that threatened our crops. I know hunters and I know people who are anti-hunting. The hunters love nature and the animals and spend money and time enjoying both. Anti-hunters are passionate and ignorant. They don't know anything about the subject except that they are against it, and they defame and besmirch all hunters without knowing anything factual about the subject.
Oh, the animals I used to hunt are mostly wiped out where I used to live, not by hunters but by loss of habitat, just like the large animals of Africa.

Sep. 10 2015 04:24 PM
Dave from Pittsburgh

I think I agree with Knowlton that the eco-tourism model is a net gain for the countries and it might be the only way to incentivize the countries to fight back against poaching. At the same time, I think trophy hunters are disgusting people. Taking pleasure from the act of killing of an animal is bizarre to me. I think Knowlton and the dentist are reprehensible people who enjoy inflicting pain and suffering on innocent animals.

The following responses from the pro-hunting crowd are red herrings: 1) eating meat is the same thing (it isn't because I didn't maim it, kill it, and then post a picture on facebook smiling about the deed), 2) it happens in the wild (so what? Bears do their business in the woods but it doesn't mean you're allowed to), and 3) animals don't feel pain like we do (that's just false).

Sep. 10 2015 04:15 PM
Mykael David Lazzeri from Berkeley CA

It seems to me a better way to raise to money for the endangered species is to charge royalties (or create some program similar to the hunting) for photographing the protected animals. Let's shoot them by preserving them in photography. If we spent the 300,000 on having the right to help relocate the aggressive bulls elsewhere (shooting them with tranquilizers instead) the buyer could have the privilege of touching an actual living breathing beast.

Sep. 10 2015 04:10 PM

Fortunately the most endangered species of extinction are wealthy, egomaniac, low-intellect, uneducated, barbaric, macho, trophy hunters like this individual.
With time they will all be gone for good or in jail.
Laws haven't caught up with them quite yet, but it's only a matter of time.

Their arrogant, self-serving explanation for killing near extinct animals is self-incriminating and out-of-touch with reality.

None of these cowards would survive in the villages being part of the native community.
Take their guns away and let them live the life of a native human being hunting for food.
They would perish from injuries and starvation, apart from going insane when living in nature as compared to the lifestyle of a spoiled rich dude.

Sep. 10 2015 02:58 PM
courtney from Louisiana

Thank you for having integrity and being objective on this story radiolab. I am certain that you were aware that a large number of your listeners did't want that and expected a slam piece on hunting. The truth hurts, and judging by the comments many can't handle it. The veil of ignorance when it comes to conservation was slightly lifted, and for many, they cant seem to handle it. Hunters put their money where their mouth is, and take an proactive approach when it comes to conservation. They truly care, and step up to the plate while all the others just talk about it to make themselves feel better. Why didn't peta or any of these other so called "conservation" groups buy the tag? Nothing was stopping them. They all knew the auction was going on. Why do these African governments need the money to protect wildlife from hunters in the first place if there are all of these alternative solutions?... All we ever hear from the anti-hunting crowd is lip service. PUT UP OR SHUT UP! You people who claim to be so smart and lend so much credence to science that it is given godlike status need to do your own research on this matter. The data is out there, and it is all in favor of the hunting model. None of the others work because no one TRULY cares as much as hunters. Hunters open their wallets and get things done over and over again as proven with actual scientific data. What do some of you with the nasty comments do for conservation? How many of you care beyond insults?

Sep. 10 2015 12:06 PM
Carve from Geneva

Hunters sounded like evangelicals...preaching a version of reality. And claiming it is the only reality. Disturbed by giving the hunter (priest) the last word. I suppose we are left to make our own opinion, true, but not enjoyable to leave the emission with the tone of a 15 century perspective on the place of animals in our human centered world.

Also, anyone giving that much money to any cause will feel the privilege to say how it is spent. Control and decisions by the dukes of hunting. No different than lords and kings controlling is not democratic or fair in any sense.

Lastly, it made me cringe to hear the sentimental romantic cutting up the game as if they were a part of some ancient tribe enjoying the fruits of a difficult hunt (from the land rovers and next stop four star restaurant to celebrate!)...who can say that with a straight face...

Sep. 10 2015 11:18 AM
John from Traverse City, Michigan

Thank you so much for airing this program. I am a liberal and a hunter. I was expecting an anti-hunting program, this was not.

Thank you RadioLab.

Sep. 10 2015 10:45 AM
James from Minneapolis

This is one of the best RadioLab productions I've experienced, and THE best encapsulation of this Big Game Hunting debate in our society. It simultaneously captured the passion and the facts (cool-headed logic) of the issue.

This is quite a feat; and you pulled it off masterfully. Hats off to you all.

Sep. 10 2015 09:57 AM
Tod from Finland

In Finland the ministry of agriculture issue a set number of hunting licenses for bears every year. This is quite an interesting parallel to the situation in North America. People pay several thousand euros to kill a single bear, usually there are only a few licenses per year. I think in 2014 in Eastern Finland there were only 6. Anyway if the licenses aren't sold, the same number of bears are killed by the ministry anyway. Bears are never cubs or mothers leading a family unit, and the money goes directly to the ministry to help them fund the enormous Finnish eco-management programs. The bears that end up being killed are normally old because they are more "careless" in not avoiding the hunters. The bear populations are maintained to be constant in their "traditional" areas, and encouraged to increase when the population is not sustainable. Bears are interesting because most of their tissues are used for food and materials. Bear sausage is quite popular all over finland too.

Bears, elk, and birds are all licensed like this. Anyway, most of the forest areas that are not national parks are used by reindeer herders which has been the oldest industry in this part of the world. The relationship between these animals has been constant for a very long time, and the indigenous Sami people used to manage the bear population themselves.

I think that the good thing about this expensive but more official licensing scheme for hunting is it allows the numbers to be monitored more closely, and it introduces a lot of financial support to protect all of the ecological stakeholders. If the bears pushed into the reindeer areas at high concentration, the forest would probably be thrown out of stability and some Sami would be encouraged to lose their traditions and heritage.

I guess the high value of the tags is because the animal materials themselves have a certain value, and the act of hunting has always been a past-time of higher social classes (outside of finland).

I don't know if this is comparable to Africa, but I guess there are so many different reserves and policies that its difficult to generalise. I have visited Namibia and the elephants there were a big problem, killing hundreds of villagers and other animals every year. In my opinion the problem is not their population in Namibia as a whole, but the new concentration of elephants in certain areas (due to human pushing) makes the family units stressed and more violent. The option to expand their territory is very limited, so population management is the resulting solution. Villages have to build walls of branches around their huts to defend themselves against elephants.

I think that game hunting licenses that go to conservation programs are a safer and more ecologically sensible way of managing the population than encouraging local people to deal with the problem, but perhaps there is a third option that is better?

Sep. 10 2015 07:19 AM
Billy Bob from No1

This Radiolab story is a fairy-tale. We all saw recently that it's enough to pay 50k and then you can kill what ever animal you want. And hunters are hardly prosecuted when they display themselves hunting rare animals on the internet openly on hunting sites.

Sep. 10 2015 06:26 AM
Charles Villa

Thanks for this episode. It really made me think about the topic from an opposite point of view. I don't have the time for a long discussion, but to me this episode was more interesting than most.

Sep. 10 2015 04:41 AM
zoephos from Porltand OR

It is a sick,sad, tiny, human-centric outlook that says the only way to "make a species valuable" is to auction off a permit to kill it and hang it on your wall. What about the fact that it's a sentient being who intrinsically makes the world a richer place by its very existence???? Oh, you're a cynic? Fine. My sister and I paid quite a lot of money for a safari through Tanzania to see live, happy animals in their natural habitat where they were just doing their thing. (Fine - we didn't pay $80K to do so but we DID pay about $4K per person... that's something!) The ONLY humane way to do this (ridiculously egocentric asinine privileged thing) is to make sure the death of the animal is quick and painless but the rich white men (and their issue-rich daughters) who buy these permits don't have to demonstrate an ability to kill an animal quickly or humanely at all. They just have to have the money to buy the right to kill the animal. And poor countries who desperately need the money have little choice but to accept. Also, at least be honest and say "kill" as I am totally sick of hearing the word "take" used as a euphemism. Radiolab - I LOVE you guys! When I saw this podcast I knew what the gist would be but I try to always be open to new ideas and I truly thought that if anyone could open my mind to the Big Game Hunting = conservation argument, it would be you guys. Instead the argument was entirely one-sided (to be fair, it was titled "The Rhino Hunter") with 20 seconds of Leakey's rebuttal. No one challenged Knowlton until the very end when Robert asked him if he had ever considered that his human-centric view may be skewed. I feel like you guys let me down. I don't understand these people but I really wanted to. Instead I feel like you stoked someone's already enormous ego and let him off without a single intellectual challenge.Boo.

Sep. 10 2015 02:55 AM
az from Virginia, USA

1) One of the biggest risks to the wild life is habitat loss due to ever increasing human population. There are limited options available to address this threat whether hunting as a sport is allowed or not.
2) $350K sounds like a lot of money but regulated hunting with limited tags surely would not address the humongous costs involved in providing employment to large number of people and keep them from illegal trade involving wild life. It appears that selling hunting tags is more of a PR and awareness strategy anyways.
3) Game Lodges would provide employment and keep the locals from illegal hunting, but it cannot address the demand of the animal parts (ivory, rhino horns etc) as with reduced supply the demand and in turn price of these parts will overtake the income levels of the legally employed, enticing them to the darker side. This may not be sustainable in long run. Moreover, stable administration and noncorrupt government officials are prerequisites for this model to work and frankly Asia and Africa aren’t known for those.

In my opinion, you may see some benefits of regulated hunting in short term, but in long run the mixed messaging will muddy the waters and cause more problems than solving.

Conclusion: Only real solution to the problem is to nullify the demand for animal parts from the eastern countries. Threat of non-cooperation, sanctions can do wonders in today’s global economy, especially when the countries with a consumer base for these magical elixirs rely so heavily on rest of the world to keep their populations employed.

Finally, as for the trophy hunters – too effing bad. It is really nobody’s fault that you grew up relishing the act of hunting and killing animals and you see it as a way of life. It has got to end. You can spin it as much as you like, it is unacceptable for us to kill an animal for the thrill of it, in this day and age.

Just like we have ended slavery, apartheid, and brutal colonial practices, and have been trying to eradicate religious persecution, racism, and various other forms of discrimination, trophy hunting should become a thing of past. I know it will take some time, like those other things did (or are taking) but giving up on the higher ideals because it’s not convenient is not an excuse I am willing to live with.


Sep. 09 2015 11:26 PM
Maria from Columbus, Ohio

I am not a hunter or hunting proponent, but I was so interested to learn about this issue from the hunter's point-of-view. I was pleased to hear how carefully individual animals are chosen and about the thoughtfulness behind the hunting groups' conservation efforts.

I am not completely convinced that this is the best way to conserve wildlife, but it is always better to hear as many viewpoints as possible. Thank you for being brave enough to present this side of the story to those of us who may have a prejudiced view of hunting.

Sep. 09 2015 08:07 PM
Rob Tilley from Portland, OR

First - let me say I have never been so viscerally affected by a podcast. The sound of the rifles and the descriptions of killing, especially in the first scenario, actually made me nauseated. I am an ex-ER physician and also a medical examiner so blood, guts and gore don't bother me at all. It was something much deeper.

There are 2 completely different issues at play and they are not differentiated at all by this episode.
1. The necessity to protect wildlife and the economic strategies to do so.
2. The enjoyment of killing that Corey Knowlton and the Swedish hunter in the episode displayed.

These two are unrelated.

To enjoy killing an animal is a sad and perhaps even sick reflection on one's nature. How can killing anything result in pleasure? "Sport" hunters simply cannot grasp the revulsion that others feel toward their pleasure in killing. Corey Knowlton refuses to recognize that he enjoys killing or that many of us know that and are revulsed by it. During the podcast he even says he will "take" the animal to lessen the harsh truth of a simple slaughter that could be frankly done by a five year old. If he really believes in conservation why didn't he just give the money and not kill the rhino? Why was this simple and pointed question not asked? Radiolab - you could have done better.

To recognize the value of wildlife, to work toward saving habitat and species, to recognize their right to exist has nothing to do with killing them and, in fact, seems the opposite. Its like fornicating for virginity.

Frankly, I'd like to see the major conservation charities go to these hunting "superbowls" and outbid the hunters, then use the trip to highlight the beauty and majesty of these animals. My belief is that this would cause greater efforts toward saving these animals rather than lessen it. My guess is that the hunters would be livid.

Killing for pleasure isn't sport no matter how you dress it up. It's just sick.

Sep. 09 2015 07:33 PM
Lane from Seattle

So much emotion in these comments. I learned a lot from this story, and it seems to me the main controversy is how some of these conservation groups raise capital.

Perhaps if they simply culled problem animals to help the animal populations of their parks while showing the success of the survival of animal populations, perhaps everyone would be more excited about donating them money instead of offering hunting trips for money.

Sep. 09 2015 06:19 PM

I am a liberal. I believe in conservation. I hunt.
Good story Radiolab w/ the powerful Corey Knowlton.

Sep. 09 2015 06:04 PM
elizabethburlington from Miami

Fascinating. This definitely got me thinking about the issues of hunting and conservation in a different way and I love that this podcast did that. I've never understood the affinity people have for hunting. Killing purely for sport seems cruel, but I accept that many out there feel differently than I do. It seems so one sided -- a hunter or hunters, a hunting party, vehicles, big guns and a tripod vs. an animal. So here's one of the things I'm thinking about now -- if I had to kill the cow or the pig myself would I become a vegetarian or just look for a way to rationalize the act? The Texas hunter was correct when he spoke of our hypocrisy in not wanting to think about the manner in which we get our beef, pork, etc. It pains me to think about hurting an animal (the scene in the podcast where the animal was shot and suffering was horrible) but our outrage and protests seem self righteous and at times unfairly judgmental. This podcast didn't alter my distaste for hunting but it did challenge me to stop and think about all of this (including my own beliefs and behavior) in a new light. Thank you Radiolab.

Sep. 09 2015 05:58 PM
Brett from Portland OR

What a great podcast - and probably polarizing for the RL listening crowd. This truly puts the delicate balance of hunting and conservation into crystal clear perspective. Many of those that oppose this episode and the message behind this episode probably have never seen the effects of conservation in action - and understand the complexity of wildlife preservation (conservation of wolves is a perfect example of how sticky that can be). People want to see the population of a particular species thrive because it makes them feel good about humanity's relationship with animals, but do not consider the implications of funding and the task at hand to make that happen without negative repercussions. If you'd like to donate $300,000 to make sure the black rhino population survives, do it! It's commended to donate to the Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, and many many others because it's what they need to succeed in creating a balance we have disrupted with modern day human infrastructure. Deer tags, fishing licenses, camping fees, etc. are what pay for that sort of stuff to be taken care of and put on a list of "to-dos" otherwise there is no incentive from a federal standpoint - so when someone is willing to pay almost half a million to take down a single rhino, that's a hard but valuable compromise in the scope of what it takes to make conservation work. We need boots on the ground, not wildly speculative and ill-thought out perspectives on what they believe to be a simple issue. Also the argument for using just your bare hands or knives to hunt animals is completely ludicrous - the oldest known bow and arrow is 15,000+ years old - weapons are not something of the recent century.

Sep. 09 2015 04:39 PM
J2e from Canada

What a great programme. If we weren't forced to think about approaches we find counter-intuitive we weren't engaged. I think most decent, intelligent people find those images of "great white hunters" with a rifle in one had and a boot on some felled beast to be repulsive, but should that stop us from considering hunting as a way to preserve species? This week Morrisey (the Smiths) spoke out and said the Australian government's plan to cull two million feral cats was "idiocy" ( regardless that feral cats threaten the extinction of native animals. Preserve the cats and the marsupial rodents die. I know we are entitled to our opinions etc but my feeling is that Morrisey excludes himself from the debate on the grounds he can't contemplate the counter-intuitive - that a solution you find repugnant may be the best. This is why we love Radiolab - because we consistently find our assumptions challenged.

Sep. 09 2015 03:50 PM

no, I'm done with radiolab. if they can't see that this story is almost universally one sided -

We're told that hunting endangered species is a form of "conservation" from 1) a hunter, 2) a game reserve, and 3) a politician from Namibia who benefits, then what else is missing from other stories??? I want to actually learn something. Happy to hear what these people think, but this coverage is ridiculous.

The one dissenting opinion was from Richard Leaky for about 3 minutes of the story. This isn't good journalism.

Sep. 09 2015 03:21 PM
Crystal Randolph from Harrisonburg, VA

Hi everyone,
If you're anything like me, after listening to this story about a vile man trying to make you emotionally connect with him so that you will think in the same vile way he does, you need a story that honors animals and makes us feel better about this TERRIBLE planet we live on. Since Radiolab is USUALLY so good about making me feel better about the world, I decided to go listen to these stories, and they really help:

I hope I could help raise your spirits because "The Rhino Hunter" sure will bring them down!!!


PS- Please don't stop listening to Radiolab because of this. I've seen a lot of people saying that and I just ask you to think of this: Radiolab has put soooo many amazing stories on the air. This one terrible story should not stop us from listening to something that has given us so much joy over the years.

Sep. 09 2015 03:03 PM
Bob from Avon, ct

I can't believe that radiolab never examined the alternative to culling by killing, culling by capture. If a rich man can be found to kill a rhino, how many more would pay even greater sums to capture and bring a black rhino to their private zoos/ estate/ farms for continual enjoyment, public applause and glory? How many public zoos could care up the money to bring such a beast into their control? Your hunters philosophy is pretty thin gruel. But his little mind was walled off long ago. I expected more from youse guys.

Sep. 09 2015 02:35 PM
Fabio from Los Angeles USA

I don't mind hunting if its done with your bare hands or even a knife.
Surprised these macho meatheads needs a gun!

Shooting at them at a safe distance is cowardly and too easy.

Doesn't size dictate what you should kill naturally?

All you need is time and many many bullets.

Sep. 09 2015 02:20 PM

First off, anyone who uses "left wing radicals", "moral high ground", etc etc.. is clearly reading from a unchanging pulpit. Their agendas are as fixed and as stubborn as their minds. Zoos aren't wild either, and we need to stop calling trophy hunting a "sport". There are no winners, there is no competition, and the only challenge is raising enough money to point, shoot and put a head your wall

Sep. 09 2015 12:31 PM
Alex from Indiana

Do you think public zoos help wildlife conservation? Most people would say yes: they help educate people, especially children, about the necessity of wildlife and nature, how animals act in the wild, they fund research on wildlife in various ways.

Do you enjoy going to zoos to see these animals? Yes? Well, then you're a terrible, rotten human being! How dare you! You very obviously don't care about wildlife and animals if you enjoy looking at them in zoos!

Just because hunters enjoy killing animals doesn't mean they don't care about nature, conservation, or wildlife. Enjoying some type of activity that also helps they planet does not make you a terrible human being.

Hunting has been extremely successful when it comes to conservation precisely BECAUSE people enjoy doing it, and are willing to pay for it. Hunting has created a need for these animals where there once was none, no different than how zoos have created a need for animals where there once was none.

There have been many zoos which have taken in animals on the verge of extinction and bred them in captivity, and they were able to do so because people wanted to see these animals and were willing to pay to do so. Similarly, there are many hunting reservations which have taken in animals on the verge of extinction and bred them in captivity, and they were able to do so because people wanted to hunt these animals and were willing to pay to do so.

What's the difference? The end result is the same. The moral outrage at hunting is over killing animals. Get off your high-horse. Death is a part of nature. Animals kill each other all the time. It's not like the African continent was some Lion King-esque paradise, where all the animals lived in peace and harmony, until humans came along.

Sep. 09 2015 11:50 AM
Bianka Groves

Be warned if you're sensitive to animals being harmed or are in pain- there is audio of a hunt not going as well as planned- gunshots and the explaining of the hunted animal suffering.

Sep. 09 2015 10:55 AM
John O. from Annapolis, M.D., USA

I found the episode disappointing, not from the fact that I disagree with trophy-hunting-as-conservation generally, but from the fact there's a bit of journalistic art that was missing from this episode. With each episode of RadioLab I've walked away with either something interesting I don't know before or a more complete perspective on an issue, even if the episode circled around something I disagreed with or was dismissive about. And with this one, I just noticed a lack of completeness.

On the one hand, I get it - this episode is "The Rhino Hunter" and it's about getting Mr. Knowelton's perspective, as uncompromising-yet-earnest as it was, for a more full understanding of him and the people who do and believe the same things as he does. But, at some point in the episode that focus felt like it was shifting - it starts to feel like a pro-hunting-as-conservation piece - with significant time dedicated to statistics, explanations of the financial benefits, the immediate beneficial effects, and Mr. Adler (I think?) sitting back and concluding, "Oh wow. See how well this works?" (not a direct quote). The only discussion of anything else is piddling.

To credit, Mr. Krulwich does bring it back slightly with some quick points, and Mr. Leakey's 5-minute perspective was nice to have, but it comes off as this form of pure moralism absent any real world practicality, when other models exist that present a viable, pragmatic approach. There's no discussion about what happens with keeping roaming animals on cramped game preserves, no animal behaviorists to discuss aberrant animal behavior, no ecologists to give their take on this topic, nothing about the corruption of both this trade and local politics where the hunts take place, and nothing about sustainable photo-safari models (see Botswana's Beverly and Dereck Joubert). Maybe this piece didn't start off heading in this direction, but at some point it definitely felt like it should have, and leaving out this aspect out created,essentially, half an episode.

Sep. 09 2015 09:08 AM

What is wildlife? To me, it's species that live truly free. Yes, if you let market dynamics support game reserves, then many people will "conserve" certain species to be bought and sold for sport killing. But is that wildlife?

Radiolab, this is a central issue. And it wasn't discussed. It's hard for me to understand why. In Namibia, where are these animals thriving? In national parks, in someone's large reserve, in the wild? That's the issue. For all of those people who think this is conserving "wildlife", please use a different name. It's not enough to say that there aren't truly wild place left in this world. There are. And we can do a better job preserving those spaces.

Sep. 09 2015 09:06 AM
Mike M from Pittsburgh, PA

Quite simply, I don't think that Corey Knowlton's argument that hunting is a natural part of limiting the population of black rhinos holds water. Setting aside what the definition of natural is, consider how the black rhino population got to be so low in the first place. Was it not from loss of habitat and over hunting, both due to human activity? Humans are the reason black rhinos are endangered, not due to some inevitable processes outside our control. I wish Mr. Knowlton had been more challenged on this point.

That said, given that the black rhino population is on the brink of extinction, culling and killing the more aggressive bulls does seems to be the most effective way to ensure the survival of the species as a whole. I find it stomach-turning that we have to rely on trophy hunters to, pardon the expression, kill two birds with one stone through culling and paying big money for conversation. But honestly, what other practical ways are there generate enough funds for conservation at this point?

Sep. 09 2015 09:06 AM
Joe C from Portland, OR

As an environmentalist, conservationist, and sportsman, this podcast really hit home as it covered the complexities, misunderstandings, and economic impact of hunting and game management on an international scale.

Glad to see Radiolab present such an informative, even-handed presentation of controversial subject matter. Excellent work as always!

Sep. 09 2015 08:43 AM
David Brinker from Federal Way, WA

The most interesting aspect of this episode is to elucidate how close minded left leaning people are. Their idea of 'balance' is an episode that fits their preconceived notions. The only big game story here is the elephant in the room made very clear by the hunter in this episode. Namely, social causes like this suffer from apathy, caring is cheap lip service, action is costly. By this measure social justice is a bankrupt cause.

Sep. 09 2015 08:14 AM
Matthew Hunt from Brisbane, Australia

Excellent episode Radiolab. Five Stars.

Sep. 09 2015 06:07 AM

2 of 2

It is important to remind ourselves that nature does not, in fact, *regulate itself*. That's a myth that is expressed in the Gaia hypothesis, and it simply doesn't work that way. It appears to apply on a small scale, but only temporarily, and this 'balance' as it is perceived by us is incredibly fragile. Our species' impact is not the only factor that can throw it off, but it has done so to a frightening extent within a very short time. Measures for conservation, and for feebly correcting our 'mistakes', can indeed seem counter-intuitive, and cruel (mind you, the quick death by correctly applied neck-bite on behalf of the predator is also a myth). But before resolving to the one portrayed here all other options absolutely must be exhausted.
All this said, that Scandinavian hunter simply and plainly disgusted me.

Sep. 09 2015 05:47 AM

1 of 2
A program that presents mainly one viewpoint, and an unpopular one, certainly appears to irritate many at least as much as the subject debated, and I wonder why. At times the uncommented upon look into the other camp can very edifying indeed, and it's not as if the other voices won't get their say at all. I actually never really heard much of argumentation from the side given the mic here.
I do think that Mr. Knowlton is sincerely convinced of what he's saying, and I simply don't have enough information myself to prove him wrong. If the solution to aged rhino males as having become a threat to their own species (decimated by us) is indeed this, then so be it. I certainly don't discount the dark paradox, and sentimentality can go quite awry as well. I still have to wonder whether really all avenues have been exhausted (e.g. deportation of the male in question; it works with bears entering camps in Canadian Nat. Parks), and, as one commentator pointed out, whether the money indeed goes where it's supposed to. Beyond that it'd be whatever means are most efficient.
One thing Radiolab should have commented upon more was the context of the recent lion-kill by that ill-advised dentist. Mentioning it was mandatory, but it needs to be stated that none of the arguments presented by Mr. Knowlton could possibly apply here. Most people know by now that all rhino species are on the brink of extinction, but surprisingly few are aware that meeting a lion in the wild compares to being lucky in a lottery. There's an estimated 25 000 left – on the entire African continent. And they certainly do not pose a threat to themselves. Their disappearance meanwhile poses one to wildlife as such.
Mr. Knowlton's remark on the rhino's danger to humans, especially in the inappropriate phrasing he chose, is both uninformed and irrelevant: where the possibility of an encounter between us and another species that could potentially harm us is concerned it is us who have to take measures of evasion, by staying clear, which is, given how rare this one is, actually not that hard. You come near one, you arrange for distance. His point is not made even by accidental encounters – just imagine what measures the rhino would consider in regards to us would its brain be more like ours, if it would be about danger-culling considerations. He's also wrong about how the danger of such an encounter itself. It is actually possible to approach a rhino, if you know where to stand (out of the wind, rhinos are nearly blind), and, you know, if it's that what you really want to do. They're not out to spike everything that moves, in other words.

Sep. 09 2015 05:45 AM
Jonathan Pollard from Alaska

I have just one question - if these wealthy hunters are all about conservation, why do they desire the trophy to bring home? They seem less altruistic than Knowlton makes out . . .

Sep. 09 2015 01:58 AM
jms from Oregon

OK, so I understand the argument of culling an aggressive and dangerous bull to spare the viability of a breeding population, but I can't get past the arrogance of Knowlton's tone. The ability to spend that kind of money, and justify the killing of an animal in a arranged "hunt" doesn't sit well. Add to that his total unwillingness to acknowledge the viewpoint of others only serves to cement feelings of "trophy" hunters.

That money could be put to far better use.

Sep. 09 2015 12:34 AM

Knowlton travelled over 48hrs and spent hours tracking to kill an endangered animal. Is he not satisfied with just giving the $350,000 to preserve the habitat and save the species as he says? Even if it is necessary to kill an aggressive black rhino to protect the rest of the species, why is it necessary for him to do it personally? I understand the need for hunting, as Knowlton describes in his story about killing and eating the doves he hunted when his family was poor. It's when hunting goes from being a need to a want that raises the biggest red flag to me.

Regardless, this was a very interesting counterpoint that I have never considered. It would be nice to see the
numbers they refer to that prove this is making a difference. Until I remain unconvinced that this is helping.

Sep. 08 2015 10:17 PM
Cris Waller from Milwaukie, OR

This episode was profoundly disappointing and infuriating.

It lacked any balance- 2 minutes of Richard Leakey vs. the entire rest of the episode was not balance.

It was disrespectful in the extreme to the animals who were constantly referred to as "it," "the thing," those things."

It cast all those who oppose the commercialization and objectification of animals as violent slanderers, ignoring the many rational and reasoned arguments against trophy hunting.

It warned us against Knowlton's foul language- but not against the audible deaths of animals as shot after shot was pumped into them before they died.

It painted the issue of conserving wildlife as black and white- hunt the animals and the species will survive, don't hunt them and they will perish. This ignores the hugely successful alternative to trophy hunting- ecotourism. Only one hunter can kill an animal. Thousands can watch it and will pay for the privilege of doing so. From gorillas in Rwanda to wolves in Yellowstone, we have seen that people will pay to watch animals, without reducing them to the status of "things" and possessions.

It did not even mention the effects, supported by much scientific research, that hunting has on changing animal species. The podcast presented removing aggressive male rhinos as a good thing, rather than a diminution of the gene pool that, over hundreds of thousands of years, allowed the strongest rhinos to breed. We have seen that trophy hunting leads to animals that are smaller, less robust, less aggressive. We have let the hunters shape evolution.

The broadcast ignored the gigantic "canned hunting" industry that churns out lions and other animals raised in captivity only to be shot by hunters.

And lastly, the episode lacked any suggestion that animals are sentient beings rather than objects for our amusement and pawns in a chess game.

Sep. 08 2015 09:13 PM
Ecologist and deer hunter from Iowa from Iowa

Sorry about repost....fixed typo.

Glen Martin's book Game Changer, goes into detail comparing conservation success and failure in Kenya (no LEGAL hunting), Tanzania (hunting, lots of corruption), and Namibia (hunting, proceeds many go very local)--Wanna guess where big game populations doing best, and where doing worst? Namibia is doing the best. Lot messy things in life it seems.

I wish Radiolab had talked with Martin or scientist/author Dr. Harry Greene (a previous Radiolab guest and author of Tracks and Shadows: Field Biology as Art). They would have provided some better scientific context that Corey Knowlton could not adequately express.

Overall good show, but you missed an opportunity to take the discussion to the next level.

Sep. 08 2015 09:10 PM
Ecologist and deer hunter from Iowa

Glen Martin's book Game Changer, goes into detail comparing conservation success and failure in Kenya (no LEGAL hunting), Tanzania (hunting, lots of corruption), and Namibia (hunting, proceeds many go very local)--Wanna guess where big game populations doing best, and where doing worst? Namibia. Lot messy things in life it seems.

I wish Radiolab had talked with Martin or scientist/author Dr. Harry Greene (a previous Radiolab guest and author of Tracks and Shadows: Field Biology as Art). They would have provided some better scientific context that Corey Knowlton could not adequately express.

Overall good show, but you missed an opportunity to take the discussion to the next level.

Sep. 08 2015 09:08 PM
Heather from Falls Church, VA

I'm glad RadioLab took a nuanced view on this topic, but I'm more convinced than ever after listening that this trophy hunting has got to stop. I most liked Richard Leakey's analogy about children and school fees, "...if you can't afford to send your daughter to school, you don't auction her off to be raped so you can raise the school fees. We have to have some standards here."

Sep. 08 2015 07:23 PM
benlink from Huntsville, AL

It seems like PETA or Greenpeace would be raising money to purchase these licenses so that they fall into the hands of people who ... spend the money but don't hunt. It seems like if our protagonist in this one really gives a damn, he'd do the same.

Sep. 08 2015 06:11 PM
Brad from Florida

I applaud Radiolab for doing this episode. This is a complex issue and I think they did an admirable job covering both sides. People get very emotional about these issues and it would be impossible to satisfy everybody in just 1 hour. The fact is that wildlife conservation is expensive, and there relatively few people in the world willing to pay for it. While I am not sure that allowing people to pay for hunts on these preserves is the best solution; it is one that works. A large amount of conservation funding comes from hunters. In the United States licenses fees and taxes on guns and ammunition is what funds most state wildlife agencies. These agencies protect wildlife populations for everyone to enjoy and hunters are paying more than their fair share for it. I wish there were more benevolent people to donate money for conservation. However, currently that source of money is just not enough. Hunters are the group that has for years provided the funds for conservation. It would be nice if we could save every individual of these rare species. However, we are trying to preserve healthy populations of these species. If we have to sacrifice a few individuals to do so, then I think that is a necessary evil.

If you don't like the current system then go donate money to your local wildlife agency and to other non-profit conservation groups and tell all your friends to do so too. Maybe someday enough people will donate money that we won't have to rely on hunters to pay for conservation.

Sep. 08 2015 06:04 PM
JJ from NC

This is one of the better Radiolab's I have heard in a long time. I like that the unpopular opinion to the predominately liberal listener base was presented. If you listen to the story and think someone won an argument then you weren't listening, you were judging. I disagree with many of Oliver Sacks points, may he RIP, but there is no way I think he "won" and argument after listening to a story. Many of the stories are terribly one-sided this is no different. It's just from an unpopular. I don't hunt but I have killed animals for research. Nature is brutal. If we are to subjectively evaluate if an animal that has killed a young male and a young female after attempts to force itself on her should be punished then we need a system for that. Perhaps a prison industrial complex for aggressive old male bulls would work. These are politely named zoo's. Again nature is brutal should we force human brutality upon it. Is human brutality, violence aggression any different? There are better ways for Knowlton to help conserve but what of the brutality of all animals. I believe that he believes in acting on his own "nature." He is part of the circle of brutality and violence found throughout the nature. We have just found a way to restrict, monetize and find some good to come out of it. Again what of the old male Bull that kills and kills again. There is no outrage against him. He is just doomed by his own nature. I see this story as a way to see that we are closer to nature than we think. In my mind a blanket opposition to hunting just shows how far we have fallen from our connection to the violence and brutality that exists in the natural World.

Sep. 08 2015 05:42 PM
Joe Arnold

Where's the balance? Where's the bit about how reports state only something like 5% of the money raised on this way ever goes to conservation? The corruption, the lack of oversight are clear, but they're nowhere in this story.
Color me disappointed.
I've no strong opinions coming in to this, but all I heard was a guy who likes to hunt who found a justification for his desires. I don't think he's a monster, but without any fact checking in this story it's just as likely this is confirmation bias. It's like the gun nuts who ignore all the evidence against their view and focus on anecdotes that support it.

Sep. 08 2015 05:27 PM

So basically, his point was, I have a lot of money, so I get to kill an endangered animal; and that is ok because i feel so strongly about their well being. What can you do? Investing in other methods is too hard and time consuming so therefore, paying a whole lot of money and getting to kill an animal one would otherwise not be able to do legally is the way to go. Killing an animal without paying the "right" people is poaching. Killing an animal by paying the right people is conservation. I suppose in that regard, this piece portrayed that premise very well.

Sep. 08 2015 04:34 PM
Fatma from Copenhagen

We have become a species of screens and buttons. I wonder how much these like-activists know about wild life. Someone here wrote that many people are willing to donate. Well, why aren't they donating yet? Do they need an invitation to be sent to them by snail mail?

I am not a hunter and couldn't in my wildest dreams kill an animal, and even find it extremely hard to watch the killing of a mouse lab. However, I can understand Mr. Knowlton's arguments, and I personally believe that hunting is ethically alright if it is regulated so that the species is never endangered. This is how it's done in Denmark as seen in Thomas Vinterberg's The Hunt, a movie that angered many people because of it's hunting scene. We Danes seem to have made a habit of angering animal loving click-activists. Does anyone even still remember Mario the giraffe?

Emotions are alright, but one should try to keep one's head cold and use logic once in a while.

Sep. 08 2015 04:27 PM
Crystal Randolph from Harrisonburg, VA

I am one of the biggest Radiolab fans in the world, but I have to say that I was a bit disappointed in this story. Not because it contradicted my own very strongly held personal beliefs, but because I didn't feel that those beliefs were represented adequately. Radiolab is usually so unbiased, so I was so surprised to only hear one "voice of reason" (in my opinion) regarding this whole "killing to conserve" idea. The rest were hunters trying to attach emotional sentiment to their story to attract people to their way of thinking.

The only emotional sentiment I had throughout the entire story was that of the animals who were shot and suffered for an extended amount of time until the person who paid to kill them (and were OBVIOUSLY TERRIBLE SHOTS) finally was able to make a kill shot. I want to be clear, I grew up and still live in the mountains of Virgina, my entire family hunts and I have several friends who hunt. While I would never hunt myself, I certainly don't take that right away from anyone else. HOWEVER, my family and friends hunt whitetail deer, and black bear. Animals that are NOT endangered and would risk overpopulation without predators like man. However, I am unequivocally and EXTREMELY opposed to trophy hunting an animal when there are only 2500 left in the wild. Oops, make that 2499 after Mr. Knowlton got his way.

I also wanted to touch on a point that someone else made: "Lastly, the hyperbolic threats directed at people like Knowlton clearly represent an attempt to communicate to them in terms that they understand." I agree wholeheartedly with this. As one of the people who blew up the MN dentist's Yelp page with nasty comments, I feel that people like myself were just looking for a way to actually get through to the man. Its obvious that intelligent and thought-out arguments don't mean anything to these people, as evidenced by the way Mr. Knowlton completely disregarded any opinion other than his own. For him to say "No, they don't" in response to Simon Adler, stating that conservationists and ecologists want to continue to "see the Black Rhino on the face of the earth" just shows that the man is completely dismissing any and all arguments from the other side.

And my last point, is this. If Mr. Knowlton really thinks that a Black Rhino is "a raging psychopathic beast that's killing things", then he obviously is an idiot. If you ask me, Mr. Knowlton is the "raging psychopathic beast that's killing things" and I would much rather have a Black Rhino living next to me, than him.

Sep. 08 2015 04:08 PM

Thank you once again Radiolab! There is a perception that public radio, and anything related, is nothing but a liberal spin machine. A story on perceived trophy hunting should then a vilification those involved.

As a person who hunts on occasion for food, I am also very much against hunting for trophy. I think that it can cross ethical and humane boundaries. Respect the animals that die for sustenance. Accept that death is a part of life. If you are vegetarian for moral reasons, you have made your statement and I accept that as well.

That said, this piece was exceptionally neutral and fair to Mr. Knowlton. I don't agree with his profession, per se, but I do agree with his passion to conserve wildlife and habitat. Put your money where your mouth is. That is what he has done, so kudos to him for that.

For those that are internet trolls sending vitriolic messages to Mr. Knowlton, including his family, shame on you! Saying the things disclosed in this piece is nothing short of lowly and pathetic. I hope those that spit fire like this can reflect on who they are and find ways to more constructively voice their opinions.

Sep. 08 2015 03:30 PM

This week on Radiolab: we let the emotional rhetoric of a murderer manipulate our reporter and attempt to sell it as journalism.

We shouldn't feed into systems that value life as far as we can monetize it; we should seek changes in philosophies and remediation that can fix perception and the system to protect and preserve life for its value as life, not as its value to human interests. When you sell the right to kill a creature, you have already assumed that you own that creature. That system cannot be fixed, and playing its game will only perpetuate the problem--see America and its actions to promote overpopulation of deer populations to collect money for hunting licenses so sickos can find a way to justify their need for blood.

Sep. 08 2015 03:05 PM
Jimbo from Colorado

I am not anti-hunting, and hunting is certainly better in most ways than our abysmal meat industry, but this episode seemed entirely lacking ad fundamentally un-reflexive. The statements from the trophy hunters were largely just let go, without any discussion or push back on the root causes of species loss. Animals are poached because there is a market for them, animals are overcrowded because of loss of habitat, and poaching is a viable way of life because after centuries of corrupt imperialist cruelty, many African communities and economies are in a rough way. We heard from many white Africans, and heard about how rich Americans can save the day. Yay colonialism!!!

Bold move to spend 95% listening to the justifications of the hunters, and sparing only a few minutes for any opposing views. The most central issue in most any animal conservation is loss of habitat, something that trophy hunting and game farms don't really address. What is important isn't just the black rhino, but an environment where black rhinos and other animals can live. What is the difference between a game farm and a zoo, except you can shoot things in one of them? Is it really the goal to keep enough black rhinos around to kill every once in a while if the habitat that can sustain a viable population is gone?

I'm surprised that you'd been working on this for 2 years, outside of the logistics of getting the audio, very little thought seemed to be put into any real discussion. It is good to have my ideas challenged, and maybe there is a good case to be made for trophy hunting, but by ignoring the much larger issues and being so single-voiced, this attempt fell flat.

Sep. 08 2015 03:01 PM
George from Philadelphia, PA

I have to admit I was really confused by the main point/discussion of this story, i.e., that hunting helps conservation. I thought there would be a scientific discussion of the causal link between hunting populations to help increase them. After reading some of the comments and elsewhere, it clicked that really it's the money raised from and by hunters that helps conservation, not the hunting per se. That said, it seems these hunters are doing a tremendous job of raising large quantities of money for various conservation efforts. Whether we like it or not, money seems to fuel both the good and the bad forces for change in the world, so there it is. I am curious, though, as other folks have commented here, whether there are more millionaires willing to just buy the tag and not hunt the Rhino or maybe just hunt it with a camera instead?

I'd like to say that Corey Knowlton sounds like a good man, though. Maybe his values are different from my own, but I think he means well. Talking about hunting is such an emotionally and politically charged issue, and I surprise myself that I'm mostly okay with it, especially since I've never hunted myself or ever had any real interest in doing it despite the fact that I grew up around it in Colorado. I won't go further into my views on hunting since it's complicated and takes away from what I think is the bigger issue: man's control or presumed control over Nature. Ultimately, as much control as we think we have, we will never master Nature and it will ultimately outlive. It's really great hubris to think we have much more than a modicum of influence or control in its outcomes. As much as we learn about our world, our universe, we must always bow before that continual fountain of things we do no know or do not fully understand. We're just the best ants on a giant ant hill (the Earth), and over millennia we've gotten to the point where we have a pretty good dominion over the hill and it's other inhabitants to the point that we think we really are the ones controlling the hill. But all it takes is our sun going in to supernova or a giant meteorite to come down like a foot on all that we've built. Even on a more immediate level, since the latter two scenarios aren't likely to happen any time soon, we have to recognize how little we truly understand of the cause and effect of the changes we make in Nature. Radiolab had another great story about repopulating wolves in Yellowstone National Park. Scientists and other observers there were astounded to see how much effect even that small population of wolves had on all levels of the environment even down to the direction of the rivers. There's a huge system in play here, and when we push a few buttons, we really have no clue how we're affecting things down the line? Really, who is the Hunter here?

Sep. 08 2015 03:01 PM

Thank you for episode. It was brave, nuanced, and interesting. I work for the Department of Wildlife monitoring endangered/sensitive species, but a lot of the work I do is funding by trophy-hunting auctions. It does make me uncomfortable sometimes, and hearing about similar issues on a larger scale in Africa really affected me. I’m not sure what the solution is, but shows like this are definitely a step in the right direction.

Sep. 08 2015 02:20 PM

We have to do the job, whether as hunters, as professional exterminators, or with the fronts for cars. Reasonable hunting is the best solution.
Stereotypes about hunters, just like stereotypes about anti-hunters, are just as damaging as any other stereotype. First, they are never universally true. Second, they dumb-down a complex issue. We never want to be so short-sighted or obtuse as to stereotype another group. Probably, most hunters love wildlife and healthy wild habitats independent of hunting. I know I do. One feels connected to nature and the natural world in an almost zen-like, alpha brainwave-like, meditative way while being immersed in nature, whether while hiking, animal watching, or photographing. But with hunting, one feels even more connected, almost super-connected. The final shot is only a small fraction of the whole hunting experience, which can last several months from initial scouting to as one later eats that animal with family at Thanksgiving or Easter, etc.
One has to have skin in the game to care and preserve the environment. Hunters have more skin in the game than almost all others. That is why they are so active in preservation, and that is why they have been so successful. Most hunters I know are members of the WWF and the Sierra Club, as well as groups like Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever. Their contribution overflows into non-hunting conservation as well. The overall benefit to the environment is positive and part of the natural balance.

Sep. 08 2015 01:39 PM

This is such a tough, heart-wrenching topic for so many people. I completely understand and appreciate the view of those who are against hunting no-matter-what. They view the hunted animal as innocent and natural in its environment. My wife, for example, is anti-hunting and a vegetarian on morality grounds. However, humans also live in that environment, and more importantly, we significantly affect that environment. Habitat loss is, today, the number one killer of animals and animal species, not hunting.
I am not a trophy hunter, and I have no desire to hunt in Africa. But, growing up in Michigan, I have seen what hunting does for the habitat and for the economy, and it is positive on both fronts. The model in the story works. I think Ducks Unlimited may be the best example in America. 75 years ago, waterfowl was severally threatened from habitat loss and over-hunting. Today, with focused wetland preservation and reasonable hunting limits, waterfowl has significantly recovered and, in some areas, they have become almost a nuisance. Hunters accomplished that result.
Hunting bans are not the solution. For example, the Metroparks around Metro Detroit do not allow hunting, and every few years they have to resort to hiring professional deer exterminators to reduce the deer population because the over-population significantly harms the plants and remaining habitat, plus it creates increased car-deer accident risk. The State Parks and State Recreation Areas around Metro Detroit do allow hunting and, therefore, do not need professional exterminators, do not suffer deer-caused habitat destruction, and do not have the increased car-deer accidents.
An article just recently addressed this in Ann Arbor, Michigan (, where the city council has voted to have professional sharpshooters cull the deer population by shooting them this winter. What is ironic is that over the last 15 years, there have been several anti-hunting protests in and around Ann Arbor during Michigan’s deer hunting season, with such overbearing harassment of hunters that the Michigan Legislature had to pass an anti-hunter-harassment statute.
Another example is Yellowstone (another place with no hunting). To paraphrase from another scientist I think I heard on another Radiolab episode: “Everything is connected.” I am not the keeper of what is objectively moral. However, if what is natural is also moral, then when humans eliminate the natural predators and destroy the natural habitat, do we have a moral obligation to restore them and preserve them? I think so. Reintroducing wolves to Yellowstone reintroduced a predator that changed the behavior of the prey animals and produced all types of positive benefits for all of the plants and animals in the park (including those same prey animals). Hunting does generally the same thing, except humans act as the predators. We obviously cannot introduce wolves and other large predators into our cities.

Sep. 08 2015 01:36 PM
Anatoliy from New Jersey

Bravo Radiolab!!!
What an insightful and BRAVE coverage of this topic! Once again, you’ve proven to be the most creative and engaging project to have people interested in science and keep their minds open.
As someone who experienced a personal transformation of views on wild life preservation, I’d like to express my support and encouragement.
I’ve always lived in big cities, and moved to suburbs at the age of nearly forty. For the first time in my life, I had to mow my lawn, cut the overgrown trees and plant saplings. I learned that nature needs constant attention and resources to thrive. The inconvenient truth rests in the fact that Pittman–Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (lobbied by hunters) has been a backbone of the wildlife preservation effort in the US since 1937, not the environmental marches. This may be a model for the whole world.

To those who are outraged by the “The Rhino Hunter” episode… take a hike! I mean literally. Turn off TV (no offence, National Geographic), walk a trail in one of the state parks or national forests, then ask how all this marvel is funded. Five years ago I did it myself. I will make sure my children will get hunting licenses before they get driving ones.

Sep. 08 2015 12:53 PM
Dj from Canada

I never considered the other side to this...and while listening to Corey speak, all I could think about was the rainforest in Brazil. The government is asking for all the countries of the world to give them money to keep it, which is both crazy but also makes sense. Brazil has a beautiful rain forest, but they also have a population of people to take care of, and that land has a dollar value. Keeping and maintaining the rainforest also has a dollar value, and I know each and every one of us has pretended to ignore a greenpeace protestor or street team once. I know this, because I used to work for Greenpeace and the World Society for the Protection of animals on the street getting donations, and I was ignored, I was taunted, I was told a few times to f**k myself, and had people say they would donate, leave their number, and then never pick up their phone (by the way, when you leave your number with an organization saying you'll donate, we will call you until you respond with a yes or no answer, and that takes up company time and money). I would work an 8 hour shift, try and get the attention of about 1,000 people, maybe get 50 to stop, have a conversation with maybe 10 people, and if I was lucky, would get maybe 1 or 2 people in a day to donate $20-50 a month to the organization.

So people can say all they want "yes! I want to conserve!" but like Corey said, aside from leaving a tweet, or re-posting a story, people don't donate that much to wildlife. It will take an entire social shift to make wildlife and environmental conservation to have a real lasting impact right now. I don't like the idea of poachers, either illegaly or legaly, but if that person is willing to pay $250,000 for one animal, and that money will go towards saving 1,000 more, then I'm ok with that bittersweetness.

Human beings are selfish, and as much as we want to convserve the planet, at election time, governments will have helping people on their platform and creating jobs, not saving rhinos.

I do agree that as the world changes, and people start hunting less, and become more educated, the demand will decrease over time, and that's great. But while the demand will decrease for hunting, what about the increase desire for land? What government will say no to a developer coming in to take over land at a hefty sum? Again, this is the problem in Brazil. So unless everyone starts giving over their money, or find another option, Corey may be right...

Really great story, thank you.

Sep. 08 2015 12:30 PM
Abbi Baily from NC

I blinked as I listened to Corey Knowlton explain his side of the black rhino controversy. He claims he bid as a favor to a friend, did not expect to win, and was initially uninterested in killing a rare, endangered animal. Knowlton goes on to say protestors were responsible for his decision to go through with "taking" one of the last Black Rhinos. He didn't want to, they made him do it. To protect his family, and to preserve endangered animals for future generations.

Knowlton actually says that if it weren't for hunters like himself, "these animals wouldn't exist". In his view, hunters want to preserve wildlife, the conservationists do not. "No, no, no, no" he replies to the interviewer, "We don't want the same things", in response to the statement that both sides want to prevent Black Rhino from going extinct. Knowlton goes on with, "No, they don't" in reply to another statement from the interviewer again stating that conservationists and ecologists want to continue to "see the Black Rhino on the face of the earth".
Listening to Knowlton is disorienting. Black is white, he is the staunchest supporter of endangered animals - nay, he loves, loves them, I say! His childhood memories of father/son time have been attacked, conservationists are a threat to wildlife, and so on. He shows no sign of even trying to understand the public pushback against his hunt. He is in the right, and the opposition is unfair and illogical. It isn't that Knowlton has no awareness of the feelings of the public, it is that he discounts them utterly. He made no mistakes, would do nothing differently if he could, feels martyred and put upon, yet would suffer through it again if he had to - for the cause.
Isn't anyone else's "nonsense" meter going off?

Sep. 08 2015 11:52 AM
Dave from Seattle

Thank you for doing this episode. What's become apparent with websites like Animal Liberation Front and the recent response to the Cecil story is that so called environmentalist thinking has become so inverted that the valuing of wildlife has resulted in the devaluation of human life. Worshipping the environment has become another religion.

Hunter's have always been at the forefront of conservation. Even the Audubon Society was founded by a hunter, and as with the conditions of plumed birds, this is a battle between consumption and conservation. The true source of consumption and the diminishing of big game is not hunting, but rather Eastern Medicine.

Sep. 08 2015 11:34 AM
Shaun from Pretoria, South Africa

This was an interesting topic, and one that touches very close to home for me. I am from South Africa and I have grown up around hunting, although being from the city, my experiences have been limited. We are losing our Rhino's to poaching on a daily basis, and in all honesty, it doesn't look like we will be able to save them. I hate to say it, but very soon the only places you will be able to see Rhino's will be zoo's and some small, private game lodges where each Rhino they have will be constantly watched over by a security team.

Hunting is big business in South Africa. People come from all over the world to shoot all sorts of animals. I have hunted when I was younger but found no sense of joy, or fulfillment in it. As I have grown older, I have found it harder and harder to justify hunting. Maybe one of the main reason's for this, apart from my not enjoying to kill other animals, is that I do not like the money side of it. I do not like to hear these animals spoken of as property for us to hunt.

I have witnessed scenes just like the ones in this podcast (never a Rhino hunt though) and its not pretty. 4 shots to kill a Water Buck!!! That's horrible, and even worse was how the hunter exclaimed it to be a perfect hunt. It was only perfect for him. It must have been hell for that animal.

I hear the argument that unless we have these big hunts there will not be any money for conservation and the animals will disappear, but to me that seems lazy. We have many people in this world who would gladly give their money without wanting to go and shoot the animal. Telling people that the only way to save animals is to hunt them is madness. There needs to be more honesty here. I do not believe that all these hunters are there for conservation. I know hunters in South Africa. I can't recall any of them really talking about conservation. I have heard them talk about how much they like to shoot animals though.

I do get the argument people make when they say that most if the people who are against hunting also buy meat from the super market. And we know that the conditions these animals live in before we kill and eat them is horrible, and I battle with my own sense morality on that. I am certain people will look back on this time in the future with disgust. Is it not just another form of slavery?

At the end of the day, we can make excuses for anything, but it truly does seem absolutely crazy that the only way for us to see these wonderful animals in the wild is to let other humans trophy hunt their kind. Surely we can find a better way.

Sep. 08 2015 11:09 AM
Michelle Schneider from Illinois

So interesting. Loved this podcast. I don't think the average non-hunter really thinks about it from Corey's perspective. So often in media only one perspective is presented when it comes to hunting in general. It's easy to spout off an anti-hunting opinion without ever actually doing the research or taking action on what you believe. That's what I appreciate about Corey! He puts his money where his mouth is.

It's almost comical the way people become so enraged and hateful over the killing of animals. These people who spread hate and terror and threaten to kill Corey and his family- are they not often the same ones who would support the killing of children in the womb?? Are they not the same ones who threaten to kill PEOPLE who disagree with them? It's incredible.

Animals and people do not have equal value. God created MAN in His image, not animals. People should be treated with love and respect, even if their opinion differs from your own.

Sep. 08 2015 10:28 AM
Paul from Utah

Joe from Oregon,

I don't think you've completed the circle of your argument...the "complexity" of the situation. Your bais is showing.

Doesn't the money to pay for your "alternative" conservation efforts have to come from somwhere? Don't you think that $300,000 helped pay for some of that. Did you catch the part that this old (i.e. reaching the end of life anyway) male rhino was killing other, youger, healthy animals and causing other problems?

Sep. 08 2015 10:14 AM
Drex from Chicago, IL

I never knew that by paying to hunt, these hunters simultaneously funded the preservation of animals. However, I cannot believe the idea that these hunters truly value the conservation of wild life. If they did, they would pay for the tag, and then refuse to take the shot. Real conservationists, environmentalists, donate to wild life funds without killing any animals because they value wild life and the environment above material things like the pleasure of hunting and money. That's why Corey's economic argument is nonsense: people who truly care about the conservation of these animals do not need a price tag to see their value. These hunters don't care about the conservation of any animals; they care about the conservation of the ability to kill these animals. Corey's argument is a just another excuse for this twisted hobby. It worries me that Radiolab cannot see the value of endangered species outside an economic lens.

Sep. 08 2015 10:00 AM

Yikes! I hope that you're prepared for the backlash on this one. You let Mr. Knowlton manipulate you by feigning an exaggerated emotional response to even the most mild criticisms. Your milquetoast "reporter" was not at all equipped to handle his interview subject.

Did anyone else catch this ironically self-damning statement from Knowlton?

"I mean, who wants to live next door to a raging psychopathic beast that's killing things? No one."


Knowlton and his ilk "support" conservation by necessitating it. The fact that they're being coerced into paying for the dubious "privilege" of killing animals for pleasure doesn't make them conservationists. In reality, they're opportunists and dupes who are being beguiled into paying a "barbarian tax." They've appropriated the term "conservationist" to dissemble; it's propaganda and delusion.

I like how they glossed over the part where Knowlton's good buddy tricked him into bidding and winning. Shill bidding fail!

That whole bit about the "dominant bull" rhino killing a younger bull and then "forcing himself" on an adolescent female "over and over" was a pretty cheap ploy to get the audience on board with shooting the "older aggressive bulls." However, it kind of backfired when the guide said, "Nature took its course; we didn't get involved." Letting tourists come and shoot them for sport isn't "getting involved"?

Lastly, the hyperbolic threats directed at people like Knowlton clearly represent an attempt to communicate to them in terms that they understand. While many of the threats are knee-jerk emotional responses, many are also likely intended to make the hunters feel like prey. It's "turnabout is fair play" used as a rhetorical device. That said, it's better to criticize and resist barbarism without resembling it.

Sep. 08 2015 09:52 AM
Nick from Phoenix, Az

Great piece. I felt it was a little lacking in the reasons why this type of conservation is so effective. But this is the reality we live in. More people need to wake up and realize food just doesn't appear on their plates or a grocery store.

I originally heard Corey on Joe Rogan's Podcast a few weeks back. He sort of went into greater depth on there since it was close to 3hrs.

Sep. 08 2015 09:04 AM

So... Basically what you're saying is that the solution to homelessness in the united states is to auction off the right to hunt homeless people?

Maybe, the solution to poverty is to auction off to the 1% the right to abduct random minimum wage workers who are barely surviving, put them out in the woods, hunt, and shoot them.

Let me put it simply. There is always an excuse. A justification. A way to pretend it's okay. He could have said day one "This was never about me hunting a rhino. This was about me taking away the ability someone else could have had to hunt a rhino, and I got to contribute to charity in the process, it was a win win." and let it be about charity. That wasn't what it was about. It was about killing something. And he was determined to make it happen.

And... I'm kind of ashamed of radiolab for giving this kind of mentality a mouth peace. You've lost my respect, and may have lost a listener. In fact. I think that is the appropriate reaction to this. If you are going to support this type of person.

I am not sure I can allow my self to have anything to do with your continued existence on a moral basis.... So.. I think maybe I won't. You chose a controversial subject. You specifically chose to be on the unquestioned wrong side of that subject... and the listeners you are going to lose because of this... is ultimately your own fault. I wish you well. And I do hope you do not lose enough listeners to be defunded. Though if you do. It is entirely your own fault.

Sep. 08 2015 06:02 AM
Joe from Oregon

I normally really enjoy radio lab episodes but this one was highly disconcerting. For a show that usually does justice to complex moral issues I think this episode failed to illucidate the reality of the situation. It lacked an effective counter argument to this distorted version of "conservation".

Why not explain how various technologies such GPS trackers in fake ivory and inexpensive drones are being used to curb poaching? Not only that but these technologies are providing evidence linking poaching to various criminal organizations such as the LRA. Also why not mention the campaigns in various Asian countries to dissuade people from purchasing rhino horn and ivory? These are very obvious and effective forms of conservation occurring today.

While I understand the need for unbiased reporting, and I get the focus of the article was the hunter in question, I do not think this piece did enough to challenge his consequentialist beliefs. Especially when their are many obvious alternatives that are conservative in a much truer sense.

Sep. 08 2015 05:55 AM

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