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Group auctions off chance to hunt endangered rhino — to benefit rhino charity

Two black rhinos are seen in a Kenyan wildlife conservancy in 2010.
Two black rhinos are seen in a Kenyan wildlife conservancy in 2010.Roberto Schmidt / AFP - Getty Images

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the Dallas Safari Club's auction of black rhino hunting permit would benefit the Save the Rhino Trust. The auction benefits the government of Namibia's Game Products Trust Fund. NBCDFW regrets the error.

Save a critically endangered species by hunting it?

The Dallas Safari Club says it is preparing to auction off an opportunity to hunt an endangered black rhino in Namibia -- to benefit the Namibian government's Game Products Trust Fund.

"This fundraiser is the first of its kind for an endangered species," Ben Carter, DSC executive director, said earlier this month in a statement announcing the auction.

The auction, to be held in early January, is expected to fetch between $250,000 to $1 million, Carter told NBC 5 by phone Friday.

The black rhino is "critically endangered," according to the International Rhino Foundation. An estimated 5,000 live in the wild.

When asked about offering a chance to hunt a member of an endangered species, Carter said, "This is about saving a species, not one animal."

The permit that will be auctioned is the first of its kind ever to be issued on behalf of the government of the Republic of Namibia outside of the country, Carter said.

In its press release, the DSC said that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has promised full cooperation with a qualified buyer.

But the hunt has drawn widespread criticism on social media and was the focus of a segment on "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central on Thursday night.

"It seems counterintuitive to sell the ability to shoot an animal as a means to save a species," said Rita Beving Griggs, a Dallas-based representative of the Sierra Club.

Carter said he was concerned about how the auction is being perceived. The rhino that will be hunted will be an older, non-breeding male, he said.

The DSC has a stated mission of conservation, education and protecting hunters' rights.

The auction will occur during the group's annual convention, which will be held Jan. 9-12 at the Kay Bailey-Hutchison Dallas Convention Center.

Although this article previously stated that the DSC auction would benefit the Save the Rhino Trust, that nongovernmental organization is not involved with hunting or the auction.

"We are not responsible for hunting and we are not associated with hunting," the group said in a statement on its website. "Our job at Save the Rhino Trust is to save rhino, and that is exactly what we do every waking hour of our lives."

The group suggests that people concerned about the auction contact the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and its the Department of Parks and Wildlife.