- Permit to hunt endangered rhino sells for $350,000 despite protests
- South Korea to contribute $867 million for U.S. military forces in 2014
- Two more Greek far-right party MPs jailed before trial
Posted: 11 Jan 2014 09:05 PM PST
(Reuters) - A permit to hunt a black rhino in Namibia sold for $350,000 (£212,314) at an auction in Dallas on Saturday with proceeds going to protect the endangered animals despite protests from animal rights groups that saw the sale as immoral conservation.
The license allows for the killing of a single, post-breeding bull, with Namibian wildlife officials on hand for the hunt to make sure an appropriate animal is selected.
The Dallas Safari Club had been expecting the permit to bring $250,000 to $1 million at an auction held during its annual convention. The hunt will help in managing the population and provide an underfunded Namibian government hard cash in the expensive battle to thwart poachers, it said.
"Biologists in Namibia were hopeful that a U.S.-based auction would produce a record amount for rhino conservation, and that's exactly what happened," said club Executive Director Ben Carter.
"These bulls no longer contribute to the growth of the population and are in a lot of ways detrimental to the growth of the population because black rhinos are very aggressive and territorial. In many cases, they will kill younger, non-breeding bulls and have been known to kill calves and cows," Carter said this week
More than 75,000 people signed an online petition at www.causes.com to stop the sale, saying black rhinos cannot be protected if they are allowed to be killed.
There are about 25,000 rhinos in Africa - 20,000 white rhinos and 5,000 black rhinos - with the majority in South Africa. Namibia is one of the leading habitats after that.
Both countries allow for a few, carefully regulated hunts under internationally approved guidelines each year with proceeds going to fund conservation.
Rhino protection has grown more expensive in the last few years due to a surge in poaching fuelled by international crime syndicates to feed demand in places such as Vietnam, where horn is used as a traditional medicine and sold at prices higher than gold.
Wayne Pacelle, chief executive officer and president of the Humane Society of the United States, said the group has a general objection to trophy hunting and sees as morally questionable raising money for conservation by selling permits to kill endangered species.
"If we are going to put a price tag on the most endangered animals in the world, we are going to go down a very dangerous path," Pacelle said.
Tom Milliken, leader of the elephant and rhino program for the international wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, said Namibia had 1,750 black rhino as of the end of 2012 and the population has been steadily increasing under good management and protection.
"TRAFFIC believes Namibia has demonstrated a sound conservation policy for its rhinos over the years and does not oppose Namibia's legitimate execution of its hunting quota," Milliken said in an email.
Nearly 950 rhino were killed by poachers in South Africa in 2013, its environment ministry said.
In Namibia, little poaching has occurred over the past decade, with only 10 animals killed since 2006 - half of which were last year, TRAFFIC said.
Up until about 2010, only a handful rhinos were poached in Africa but the number shot up when rumours circulated about the same time in Vietnam that a minister's relative was cured of cancer by rhino horn. There is no basis in science to support the claim.
Posted: 11 Jan 2014 08:25 PM PST
SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea said on Sunday it had agreed to pay 920 billion won ($866.86 million, £525.8 million) in 2014 towards the cost of the U.S. military presence in the country, a rise of 5.8 percent from a year ago.
U.S. and South Korean officials have struck a five-year cost sharing plan for 28,500 U.S. troops in the country after a series of negotiations since early last year.
The deal, subject to South Korean parliament's approval, comes after Washington's decision to send more soldiers and tanks to South Korea next month as part of a military rebalance to Asia after more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"The U.S. side had demanded a large-scale hike, considering U.S. Forces Korea's strengthened readiness due to serious security situation in the Korean peninsula and its budget situation, but the government put the utmost efforts and drew agreement to an extent to minimize our burden," South Korea's foreign ministry said in a statement.
Still technically at war with North Korea, Seoul has shouldered part of Washington's cost for stationing its troops since 1991, currently paying for about 40 percent of the cost.
($1 = 1061.3000 Korean won)
(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Michael Perry)
Posted: 11 Jan 2014 04:20 PM PST
ATHENS (Reuters) - Two lawmakers from Greece's far-right Golden Dawn party were remanded to custody on Saturday pending trial on charges of belonging to a criminal group, on what prosecutors say is evidence linking the party to a series of attacks, including the killing of an anti-racism rapper in 2013.
Lawmakers Yorgos Germenis and Panagiotis Iliopoulos are the latest senior party officials to be jailed pending trial as part of a government crackdown on the party, which it has branded a "neo-Nazi criminal gang."
Both men denied charges against them in a marathon plea session before investigating magistrates that ended late on Saturday after more than 12 hours. A trial date has not been set. All Golden Dawn lawmakers deny involvement in the killing.
"Golden Dawn is a legitimate political party taking on a sincere political struggle," Iliopoulos told reporters earlier on Saturday, flanked by dozens of flag-waving supporters, some chanting the party's "Blood! Honour! Golden Dawn! slogan.
"We will not buckle. Golden Dawn will be victorious - Greece will be victorious," he said.
Party leader Nikos Mihaloliakos and dozens more senior party officials were arrested last September following the stabbing of rapper Pavlos Fissas and were charged on what prosecutors say is evidence linking the party to a series of attacks.
Another MP, Stathis Boukouras, was due to respond to the charges on Sunday. "All these lies will be forfeited - the truth will shine," Boukouras said outside the court
The public arrests of the party's top brass riveted the country, which has not witnessed a mass round-up of elected politicians since a military coup nearly five decades ago.
Golden Dawn rose from being a fringe party to win 18 seats in parliament in elections in 2012.
It has drawn on anger over the debt crisis, budget cuts, high unemployment and corruption to become the Greece's third most popular party in surveys, but it lost about a third of its support after the killing.
As part of government efforts to clamp down on the party, parliament last year voted to cut off state funding for the group.
Golden Dawn, whose emblem resembles a swastika and whose members have been seen giving Nazi-style salutes, rejects the neo-Nazi label.
(Reporting by Karolina Tagaris and Gina Kalovyrna)
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