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Randall Jeppesen and Associated Press reportingA national animal rights group sent a letter to BYU today asking them to stop their white rhino exhibit.
The Humane Society of the United States letter says white rhinos are rare and killing one for a BYU display goes against conservation and against LDS Church teachings of treating animals with kindness.
But BYU's Bean Museum director, Larry St. Clair disagrees. He says, "We followed appropriate procedure in acquiring the rhinoceros in terms of international law and federal law and all treaties that exist to protect these animals. We've not done anything illegal at all."
He says in a conservation program they worked with, the goal is to remove several older male rhinos to help the herd. He says, "These large males, which are no longer reproductively capable, prevent the younger males from participating in the reproductive process with the population."
The rhino was killed in South Africa by Fred Morris of Draper, a museum benefactor who had a permit.
"Museums and institutions of higher learning, perhaps a century ago, used to acquire animals through this fashion by sending out trophy hunters to collect specimens from the wild. But it has really gone out of fashion and there are much better ways to set up a museum collection without procuring the animals from wild populations," said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of the Humane Society.
The skin is mounted for public viewing through January at BYU's Monte L. Bean Life Sciences Museum. Officials said it is being used to teach about conservation efforts.
The Humane Society, based in Washington, D.C., said white rhinos are among the rarest large mammals in the world.
St. Clair, however, said officials at a national park in South Africa reported a surplus of rhinos. He said all meat was given to local residents.
"There's a management protocol that's been defined by wildlife biologists," St. Clair said. "Some of that does involve occasionally, periodically taking animals out of the population when they're in excess. "Money for the permit goes to maintain the habitat," he said.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story. Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)