Heroes and Villains

Update below.

You know a cause has achieved cult status when it makes it into the comic books.

Marvel Comics has come out with a double pack of comic books featuring the popular character of Wolverine and the issue of the illegal trade in endangered animal parts. Written and illustrated by the great Phil Jimenez, the comics couldn’t be more timely.

The Dallas Safari Club auctioned off a chance to hunt an endangered rhino for $350,000 last week, over widespread protests and petitions.

Savage Wolverine #12 Art: Jimenez/Marvel

Savage Wolverine #12
Art: Jimenez/Marvel

Ostensibly, the money will go towards conservation efforts in Namibia. The hunt has been sanctioned by the government.

I can understand the need to cull non-breeding, older male rhinos from a herd to promote younger, healthier males that might otherwise be attacked or intimidated. I can understand the Namibian government wanting to earn hard cash for a cull that would otherwise only cost them time and money.

But let’s not kid ourselves: Paying a vast sum of money for the thrill and privilege of hunting an endangered animal, even in the name of conservation, does little more than glorify the illicit status of that animal’s value to humans, and add value to the illegally traded body parts of poached animals.

This auction comes the same week that saw an Irish native, Michael Slattery Jr., convicted and sentenced to almost two years in prison for coming to the United States to buy mounted rhino horns, which he sold on to Asian buyers for an estimated $30,000 per pound.

Horns of endangered black rhinos. According to the prosecutors in the Slattery case, the horns he sold were resold twice and tripled in price before leaving the U.S. Photo: US Attorney's Office - Eastern District of New York

Endangered black rhino horn.
Photo: US Attorney’s Office – Eastern District of New York

Mr. Slattery claimed he was just doing business  and saw no connection between his actions and its effect on endangered species. According to the prosecutors in the Slattery case, the horns he sold were resold twice and tripled in price before leaving the U.S. Slattery argued that he was just a salesman, turning a dollar on something already there.

As Judge John Gleeson of United States District Court, who presided over the trial, is quoted as saying by way of comparison to Slattery’s defense, “‘I didn’t make these drugs, all I did was distribute them; I didn’t create this child pornography, I just distribute it.’”

The hunters and poachers in Savage Wolverine don’t fare well at the hands (well, claws) of Wolverine, but he reserves just as much anger for those who trade in the endangered animal business.

I wonder where Wolverine would stand on the trophy hunt auction of endangered animals.

UPDATE: 21 May 2015. The rhino auctioned for hunting was shot dead on 20 May 2015 by Corey Knowlton, the Texas hunter who won the auction bid.

From the AFP: Knowlton stated, “I think people have a problem just with the fact that I like to hunt… I want to see the black rhino as abundant as it can be. I believe in the survival of the species.”

Since 2012, Namibia has sold five licences each year to kill individual rhinos, saying the money is essential to fund conservation projects and anti-poaching protection. The only rhinos selected for the hunts are old ones that no longer breed and that pose a threat to younger rhinos.

Sorry, I just don’t agree. This is no different from countries selling off illegal rhino horn or elephant ivory seized from traders.

As long as the animals are worth more dead than they are alive, for any reason, poaching and the trade in illegal animal parts will be encouraged.

Savage Wolverine #13 Art: Jimenez/Marvel

Savage Wolverine #13
Art: Jimenez/Marvel

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