Rhino head, snow leopard sold at U.S. bankruptcy auction

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 18, 2011 9:33 PM
Rhino head, snow leopard sold at U.S. bankruptcy auction

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - The mounted head of an endangered white rhinoceros and the stuffed remains of a highly endangered snow leopard, remnants of the fortune amassed and lost by an Alaska real-estate titan, have been auctioned off to settle his bankruptcy case, officials said Monday.

The wildlife trophies were part of the estate auctioned off in Anchorage to settle the bankruptcy case of Robert Kubick, a once-wealthy businessman and celebrated big-game hunter who was imprisoned after being convicted of defrauding his creditors.

For the past decade, the rhinoceros head, snow leopard and assorted other rare animal trophies that Kubick bagged traveled various federal offices, where they were used to educate wildlife agents, said Bruce Woods, spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska.

Under federal law and international treaty, the buyers of the endangered animal trophies had to be Alaska residents and were required to keep the items in Alaska, Woods said.

The Endangered Species Act forbids commercial trafficking in endangered species' animal parts, but the auction was allowed under a special settlement reached in the bankruptcy case, he said.

The buyers fit those qualifications, said Jim Hill, the auctioneer who sold them. The rhinoceros head sold for $9,250, the snow leopard for $1,850 and the other leopards went for $750 and $1,700, he said Monday.

Kubick made his fortune during the heady days of the Alaska pipeline oil boom in the 1970s and early 1980s. He lost it when oil prices crashed in the 1980s, and then ran afoul of the law when he attempted to hide his assets from creditors.

According to federal prosecutors, Kubick buried cash and diamonds in the ground, illegally transferred items to family members and stashed his wildlife trophy collection in a container.

He was sentenced in 1998 to serve 58 months in prison. At the time, it was the longest prison sentence ever issued in an Alaska white-collar crime case. He died in 2006.

White rhinoceroses, native to southern Africa, currently number about 20,150, but are at risk of depletion by poachers trafficking in their horns, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Snow leopards, native to the mountains of central Asia, number only 4,080 to 6,590, according to the IUCN.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Greg McCune)