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Thrill kill: Museum, or hall of shame?

Published November 19, 2007 9:15 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

"It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it."

- A U.S. Army officer in Vietnam

Officials at the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum at Brigham Young University got the southern white rhinoceros they were looking for. Draper businessman and museum benefactor Fred Morris, who says he shoots animals in order to save them, killed it at their directive, and on their behalf.

Morris' mount will join a dead elephant in a new savanna water hole exhibit at the museum. Wesley "Skip" Skidmore, the museum's vertebrates collection manager, also has a hippopotamus and a giraffe on his hit list.

The white rhino, which was brought back from the verge of extinction, is the most populous of the world's five remaining species of rhinos. There are an estimated 11,600 in existence. Make that 11,599.

Morris, who paid $30,000 for the permit to kill the animal in a national park in South Africa, said the money will go toward rhinoceros conservation efforts. "It's a way to put money into wildlife and know that it really does something," he told The Tribune.

The truth is, if Morris were genuinely concerned about conserving the species, he would donate $30,000 toward the cause, not spend that amount to remove one of the prime males from the breeding population. But he's a trophy hunter, not an ethical hunter. Ethical hunters kill what they eat and eat what they kill.

And the thrill kill also puts BYU, which claims on its Web site that the collections are used to "celebrate the role of Jesus Christ as Creator," in a bit of an ethical bind. If the private university wants stuffed animals in its museum, it should display Teddy bears. This collecting-by-killing policy is the sort of thing that museums practiced a century ago, when the average person could only see a rhinoceros in a picture book. Today, you can learn about exotic animals by watching television, or visiting a zoo.

Still, if the museum wants to look like a Cabela's store, there are better ways to put a rhino on display.

Acquire a rhino from a zoo, one that died of natural causes.

Make a realistic, life-size mount from synthetic materials, maybe fiberglass.

Shoot a video instead of shooting a rhino, and play it on a big-screen television.

Or buy a two-man rhino costume for Skidmore and Morris to wear. That would be educational as well as entertaining.




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