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(CNN) — An American big-game hunter said he is saving the endangered black rhino by paying $350,000 for a license to shoot and kill one of the massive creatures — but animal welfare groups disagree and are livid that he took out the threatened rhino.
CNN was given exclusive access to join Corey Knowlton on the hunt in northern Namibia, where he tracked the animal for three days through unforgiving desert brush.
After successfully taking out the animal, Knowlton said he has no regrets. The black rhino is one of the most endangered species in the world.
“I’m feeling pretty emotional right now,” he said.
Knowlton has been heavily criticized for hunting the rhino, but believes “a hundred percent” that his actions will benefit the species in the future.
“I felt like from day one it was benefitting the black rhino and I’ll feel like that until the day I die,” he said, adding that he is “hell bent on protecting this animal.”
In Namibia, the most significant threats to the black rhino are poachers seeking their horns and, sometimes, the rhinos themselves. Advised by the Namibian government, Knowlton’s hunt targeted a specific rhino — one of four — that was considered a high-priority threat to the herd. Last year, the rhino killed another bull in a gruesome fight.
Knowlton has received death threats and scathing criticism for wanting to and eventually succeeding at killing the rhino. Some animal welfare groups have derided hunting as a conservation method as a horrific idea.
“These are incredibly majestic creatures and their worth alive is far greater than they are dead,” Azzedine Downes, with the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said.
But Knowlton stands by his harrowing hunt. He vowed to take the abuse of his critics to convince the world that conservation hunting can help save the endangered species.