Upsetting a member of the Dallas Safari Club is no easy task.
The Texas group, which calls itself a “gathering point for hunters, conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts,” is a frequent recipient of violent death threats from those who despise its practice of auctioning trophy hunts in places like Mozambique and Namibia.
Last year, the club auctioned off a permit from the Namibian government to kill an endangered black rhino, according to the Dallas Morning News. In recent years, the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism, which oversees black rhino population, has provided hunters with just three permits, according to CNN. Last year’s sold for $350,000.
“We rely on wildlife management by experts, the scientists and the biologists, and they have told us that this is the best way for us to raise the most money that’s going to help us to raise the black rhino population,” Ben Carter, Dallas Safari Club president, told Fox affiliate KDFW at the time.
In addition to raising $350,000, the auction raised hackles, and the club’s inbox was flooded with messages like this one:
Carter, who is often singled out by critics of the Dallas Safari Club, told The Washington Post that he’s grown accustomed to threatening e-mails telling him to “watch your back, dude.”
“I’ve had threats on my family and my children,” he said. “You hope it’s all spur-of-the-moment, idle threats. You try not to worry about.”
But that changed last week as international outrage swelled following the death of Cecil the lion.
The Texas club, which had nothing to do with the hunt in Zimbabwe, found itself on the receiving end of a threat so unsettling and specific that club officials reported the incident to local police and the FBI.
“Dumb Nimrods!” a Facebook user with the name “Peshotan Pavri” wrote on the club’s page. “You idiots have no respect or understanding for nature, which is why I won’t bother explaining. I will fight to shut down your disgustingly immoral witchcraft & more importantly the manner in which you carry out what you do & when it is done. I will complete the past. I will come right to your Dallas Safari Club with an AK47 & a grenade and wipe the whole lot of you out!”
Carter told The Washington Post that when the club reported the message to Facebook, administrators declined to remove it.
“I’m not sure I understand the logic of a person who tells you they’re so incensed over the killing of an animal that they’re going to come kill you,” Carter told The Post, adding: “It boggles the mind that threatening to blow up and kill people in an office isn’t considered offensive by Facebook.”
In the past, the threats have usually been tied to a controversial auction. But the latest threat was random, Carter said, and the club is now looking into ways to increase security at its offices.
Carter noted that the group provided $20,000 in grant money to study conservation in the area where Cecil the lion was killed.
“You’ve got uninformed and uneducated people making emotional decisions about wildlife management, and we’ve got professionals advising us about conservation and that’s all they do,” he said. “You got to wonder if these people really care about the wildlife management or if they only care about attacking hunters.”
Critics say the idea that we should protect endangered animals by auctioning them off to hunters defeats the purpose of protecting them.
“They need to be protected, not sold to the highest bidder,” Jeffrey Flocken of the International Fund for Animal Welfare told CNN. “It also sends a dangerous message that these iconic and disappearing animals are worth more as dead trophies to be mounted and hung on a wall in a Texas mansion than living in the wild in Africa.”