Rhino head, snow leopard sold in US auction

ANCHORAGE, April 18 Mon Apr 18, 2011 10:06pm EDT

ANCHORAGE, April 18 (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 pay some of his debts, officials said on 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 big-game hunter who was imprisoned after being convicted of defrauding his creditors.

Buyers of the endangered animal trophies had to be Alaska residents and were required to keep the items in Alaska, said Bruce Woods, spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Endangered Species Act forbids commercial trafficking in endangered species' animal parts, but the auction was allowed as part of a deal reached in the bankruptcy case.

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

Kubick made his fortune during the Alaska pipeline oil boom in the 1970s and early 1980s. He lost it when oil prices crashed in the 1980s, and got in legal trouble for hiding his assets from creditors.

Federal prosecutors said 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.

For the past decade, Kubick's rare animal trophies traveled to various federal offices, where they were used to educate wildlife agents, said Woods.

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, Greg McCune and Deborah Charles)

FILED UNDER: