Chris Peyerk is a Michigan man who paid $400,000 to hunt and kill a rare black rhinoceros in Africa and has received permission from the Trump administration to import the animal’s skin, skull and horns to the United States. Peyerk is a longtime trophy hunter and the president of his family’s construction company, Dan’s Excavating Inc.
According to The Associated Press, Peyerk, a 53-year-old Shelby Township, Michigan, resident, acquired a permit from the Fish and Wildlife Service to import the black rhino last year after paying the $400,000 fee to an anti-poaching program to receive permission to hunt the rhino in Namibia. An international convention allows Namibia to authorize five male rhinos to be killed each year by hunters.
“The numbers of black rhinos have been increasing in recent years with stricter conservation management, but dozens are still illegally poached each year for their horns, which are sold on the black market for use in traditional Chinese medicine and as a status symbol. The horns are composed largely of the protein keratin, also the chief component in hair and fingernails,” The Associated Press writes.
While Peyerk legally hunted the black rhino and followed all proper protocols to import the trophy into America, the hunt has sparked outrage by animal activists. Peyerk could not be reached for comment by Heavy.
“We urge our federal government to end this pay-to-slay scheme that delivers critically endangered rhino trophies to wealthy Americans while dealing a devastating blow to rhino conservation,” Kitty Block, the head of the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International, said in a statement. “While we cannot turn back the clock to save this animal, the administration can stop the U.S. from further contributing to the demise of this species by refusing future import permits of black rhino trophies.”
Sara Amundson, the president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, added, “The Trump Administration has dealt another blow to wildlife protection by granting its third permit to import a critically endangered black rhino trophy.”
Here’s what you need to know about Chris Peyerk:
1. Chris Peyerk Hunted & Killed the Male Rhino Bull — One of About 5,500 Remaining in the World — in a Namibian National Park in 2018
Chris Peyerk killed the rare black rhino on a hunt in a Namibian national park in 2018, The Associated Press reports. The male rhino bull is one of only about 5,500 remaining in the world, the AP reports. “The specific subspecies Peyrek listed on his application, the south-western black rhinoceros, is listed as “vulnerable” by the IUCN, meaning it is at less threat of extinction than the rest of the species as a whole,” the news organization wrote.
According to the AP, Peyrek paid $400,000 to a trust fund the Namibian government set up for wildlife management, conservation, rural development and “other activities aimed at promoting the coexistence of humans and wildlife.”
Peyerk filed an application with the Fish and Wildlife Service in April 2019, according to the government agency’s website. His application states, “The applicant requests a permit to import the sport-hunted trophy of one male black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) from Namibia for the purpose of enhancing the propagation or survival of the species. This notification is for a single import.”
According to the AP, the Fish and Wildlife Service has approved the application. The agency could not be reached for comment by Heavy and a search of its website does not show any information about the confirmed permit to import the trophy, which includes the black rhino’s skin, skull and horns.
Trump has approved two other permits for black rhinos. The Obama administration began the practice of allowing permits for black rhino trophies in 2013, as a result of the increased worldwide population of the animal, and issued three permits before Obama left office.
2. The Fish & Wildlife Service Says ‘Legal, Well-Regulated Hunting’ Can ‘Benefit the Conservation of Certain Species’ & Peyerk’s Attorney Says ‘Permitting Is One Cog in the Conservation Wheel’
Laury Parramore, spokeswoman for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a statement, “Legal, well-regulated hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit the conservation of certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation.”
According to the AP, Peyerk was represented in his permit application by Louisiana attorney John J. Jackson III, of the nonprofit group Conservation Force. He provides legal assistance to hunters and is a past president of the trophy hunting group Safari Club International. Jackson was appointed to the International Wildlife Conservation Council, which promotes trophy hunting, by former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who set up the board.
Jackson told The Associated Press, “The permitting is just one cog in the conservation wheel of what we do. We establish and support programs on the ground that enhance the survival of the particular species. Our mission is the recovery of the species population, not the private interest of the hunter.”
While Trump’s administration has approved the permit, according to the AP, the president himself has decried the practice of trophy hunting, despite the fact that his sons are avid hunters. In 2017, Trump questioned whether “this horror show,” referring to legal hunting and the legal importation of trophies, would actually lead to the conservation of endangered and rare animals.
3. Peyerk Has Been the President of Dan’s Excavating for Several Decades After Inheriting the Company From His Father, Who Founded It in 1974
Chris Peyerk is the president of Dan’s Excavating and has led his family’s company for several decades after taking over the leadership role from his father, Dan Peyerk. His father founded the company in 1974, according to its website.
“With Dan’s Excavating, Inc., (DEI) an owner takes on a partner with a commitment to performance. A company who, since 1974, has grown to become a recognized industry leader in large scale, high profile underground projects, site preparation, road construction and structural concrete work,” the website states. “DEI employs the finest in civil engineering, project management and administrative experts. Charged with project accountability and responsibility, our team evaluates the project, develops the processes, manages the workload and equipment and effectively communicates with the owner. Professionalism and performance in all aspects of the job are what set us apart from our competition.”
The company’s website adds, “From $250,000 residential developments to $100 million airport infrastructures, it’s the passion for the job that drives each and every project. DEI has been consistent since day one in its mission of demonstrating loyalty to a project and loyalty to each other. It’s this type of employee allegiance and their collective industry knowledge that has resulted in the company’s construction versatility. Of the thousands of projects undertaken by DEI, the company enjoys a highly deserved reputation of delivering quality workmanship and jobs that have been completed more often than not, ahead of time – never late.”
The company’s projects include Cherry Creek Corporate Park in Shelby Township, a pump station at the Detroit airport and several Michigan Department of Transportation projects, including construction on Interstate 75. About 350 people work for the company.
Peyerk, who is married and has children, graduated from Michigan Technological University in 1987 and has worked for his family’s company since then.
4. He Has Been Involved in Local Michigan Political Controversies Over the Bidding Process for Road Construction Projects His Company Has Led
Peyerk and his company have been named in political controversies in Michigan in recent years centered around the bidding process for construction projects given to Dan’s Excavating. He has never been accused of legal wrongdoing.
According to Politics Central, a Macomb County political candidate accused a public works commissioner in 2017 of engaging in pay-to-play politics by having Peyerk host a fundraiser at his home for her election campaign. Peyerk’s fundraiser required attendees to pay $3,000. Peyerk’s company was later given a contract to haul excavated soil in a dump project. But the commissioner, Candice Miller, said it was a sealed bid process and their was no wrongdoing.
“I feel very confident in this contract being awarded to Dan’s,” Miller told Politics Central. “Not only are they a local company with a stellar reputation for their work, but their bid was put under scrutiny by a team of engineers and financial experts who conducted an exhaustive evaluation and they unanimously endorsed Dan’s bid. This bid was awarded after thorough review, done in a public meeting and with the leaders of the impacted communities of this project invited to be in the room while the bid was discussed and voted upon.”
Peyerk is also involved in Lombardo Homes, which generated controversy in 2015 about blight at a development site.
5. Peyerk & His Family Have Long Been Involved in Trophy Hunting & His Mother & Brother Were Fined for Illegally Killing a Grizzly Bear in Alaska in 2013
Peyerk isn’t the only trophy hunter in his family. His father, Dan Peyerk, and mother, Charlotte Peyerk, are also hunters, as is his brother, Mark Peyerk. His mother and brother were fined in federal court in 2013 after they admitted to illegally killing a grizzly bear on a hunt in Alaska.
“he court fined each defendant $20,000, ordered defendants M. Peyerk and C. Peyerk to pay $10,000 and $5,000 dollars respectively in community service payments to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, required each defendant to write a public letter of apology to Safari Club International for submitting the fraudulent entry of the illegally taken bear, and ordered forfeiture of the hunting rifle and the bear. The court also prohibited the defendants from hunting during Mark Peyerk’s 5-year and Charlotte Peyerk’s 4-year terms of probation,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska said in a press release.
“In imposing sentence, Magistrate Judge Oravec commented that besides the illegal taking of wildlife, the more aggravated criminal conduct was the defendants’ multiple written false statements to cover up the illegal kill. According to Assistant U. S. Attorney Stephen Cooper, who prosecuted the case, Mark and Charlotte Peyerk admitted in their plea agreements that they and their assistant guides agreed they should take the bear the day before the season opened. The Peyerks’ cameras had the date indicator altered to make it appear the bear was killed on opening day. They also falsified the date of kill on a State of Alaska record and on a Safari Club International trophy entry form,” the press release added.
“Believing the false statements, Safari Club International awarded Charlotte Peyerk the ‘Diana Award’ for ‘ethics in hunting.’ The court ordered Ms. Peyerk to offer the return of the award to the Safari Club International,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.