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Hunting the Black Rhino

Trophy Killing and the Management of Endangered Wildlife


Christine R. Dahlin
Department of Biology
University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown


This case study was developed to teach students the importance of understanding the behavior of wildlife, explore the difficulty in making management decisions when the public is invested in a species, and to help students develop critical thinking and public speaking skills. Students learn about the conservation status and behavior of the black rhinoceros by reading a primary literature article and answering a series of questions. They then listen to a Radiolab podcast that explores the moral dilemma of whether it is ethically appropriate to shoot an endangered rhinoceros if the purpose is to raise conservation funds. Students are assigned one of five positions and write essays to prepare for a town hall style debate in which they examine the pros and cons of such a decision. The Radiolab podcast is based on real events, and is also representative of many ethical dilemmas that wildlife managers regularly face. This case study is appropriate for several upper division biology courses.

  • Gain an understanding of how complicated and difficult management decisions can be when the public feels emotionally invested in such decisions; this is the primary objective.
  • Understand that there may be no single, ideal solution to some problems that will satisfy everyone.
  • Increase their understanding of why studying animal behavior is important for management of animal populations.
  • Practice reading and interpreting a primary literature review article.
  • Improve their critical thinking and writing skills while developing a position essay.
  • Gain confidence and skill in public speaking during the town hall debate.
Keywords: wildlife; animal behavior; megafauna; rhinoceros; rhino; hunting; flipped activity; conservation; endangered
Topical Area: Ethics, Policy issues
Educational Level: Undergraduate upper division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Analysis (Issues), Debate, Dilemma/Decision, Flipped, Journal Article, Public Hearing, Role-Play
Language: English
Subject Headings: Biology (General)   Environmental Science   Wildlife Management   Zoology  
Date Posted: 8/25/2016
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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Supplemental Materials

As part of their preparation for the case study, students listen to the podcast below:

  The Rhino Hunter
This podcast chronicles how, in 2014, professional hunter Corey Knowlton paid $350,000 for a hunting trip to Namibia to shoot and kill an endangered black rhinoceros that was auctioned off by the Namibian government in an effort to raise funds for conservation management. Producer Simon Adler follows Corey and, along the way, talks with Namibian hunters and government officials, American activists, and Kenya's former Director of Wildlife, Richard Leakey, as he explores what conservation really means in the 21st century. Running time: 52:12 min. Produced by Radiolab, 2015.

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