4 min read

The Last Male Northern White Rhino

The Last Male Northern White Rhino

Hello, this will be a different type of blog post. I suppose with only 3 posts so far it's difficult to claim that there's a normal type of post. The initial plan of this post was to explore the different points of view in writing by telling the story of the last male Northern White Rhino, Sudan. Originally, I outlined the story of how we poached the northern white rhinoceros to functional extinction from the point of view of a poacher, a Ol Pejeta Conservancy worker and Sudan. Each perspective would be written in a different point of view; the poacher in first person, the Ol Pejeta Conservancy worker in third person limited, and Sudan in second person. However, after some research and struggling to write Sudan's point of view, I now want it to stand alone.

I'm not sure if I'll finish what I originally outlined, but I definitely still want to practice writing in different points of view. As a fair warning, this is me practicing creative writing, so bear with me.

Producer and author Robert Evans once wrote, “There are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth. And no one is lying". In this case, the truth is that the northern white rhino, with only two females left, Najin and Fatu, will certainly reach extinction and we are to blame. In this story, I have no side, but here is my attempt to share Sudan's.

You hobble forward, with each step your hooved feet part the Kenyan soil beneath you. As you droop your snout to graze, you catch sight of your own tracks. Scattered around the savanna's surface and amongst the vegetation are three toed imprints. With your gaze, you follow a trail of footprints, half eclipsed by the cool and dark patch of shadow where you often lay. The left hind and rear footprints trace the edge of the shadow while the right footprints are scorched by the sun. With great difficulty, you continue to follow your circular trail, spiraling around the shadow until it leads you back to where your gaze initially was caught. It's difficult to say whether the imprints were caused by a single heavy-footed round or if you traced your tracks countless times today. Regardless, you know they are yours because every hindfoot pair favors the shadowed side. The hindfoot's sunlit partner is noticeably shallower in depth as if you were afraid to touch the heated ground. But that's not the reason. You're accustomed to the heat and the feeling of the hot sand curl under the weight of each step.

And on cue, the pang of your wound and the repugnant odor of your flesh rushes back to your awareness. You forget that you intended to graze and lunge your neck leftward and try to gnaw at the material covering your hindleg. It's unbearable. Every lunge is accompanied with a flash then simmering pain, but you need to do something. With the same leg you despondently beat the dirt, but the pain only multiplies. So, you lunge and gnaw again. Then beat the dirt. And lunge and gnaw again. But the material doesn't budge, it only discolors. A circular well of crimson appears in the center of the material and slowly grows in diameter. The pang is agonizing, and you beg for the simmering on your skin to stop. You need the coolness of the shadow. You need to lay. So, you return your gaze back to the shadow, let out a plaintive wail, and slowly stagger your way back.

What you don't realize is that along with your 2.5-ton frame you carry the dwindling hope of your species' lineage. You don't fully comprehend your title as the last male northern white rhino, nor it's global significance, but you do suffer its consequences. In contrast to the pain, which, although unbearable, often subsides, loneliness and entrapment are incessant and unforgiving. Even with the company of your daughter and granddaughter, you feel alone. Every day you cycle between laying, hurting, grazing, and hobbling with the only variety being your will to live-and it's diminishing.

As you approach the shadow, the men who take the pain away arrive. You are alone, but at least they are your friends. They duck under the shadow, avoiding the spot where you lay and place their soft hands on your neck. Their fingers ripple across your hide as they make unintelligible, yet comforting noises, and for a fleeting moment, you almost believe you aren't in pain. But you remember you are. Disheartened, you pace, unsure whether to lay or to trace your usual round along the shadow, but the weight of your failing body becomes too much to bear. So, you let out a faint grown, take your last step, and allow your frame to slouch until your stomach presses the ground.

Now, the men around you squat and caress your heavy head with their hands. Like you, they let out small whimpers but for a different reason. The softness of their hands lulls your head down, which causes your breathing to slow. The pain in your hindleg begins to diminish to a dull ache and you realize that you must have been poked in the other again. Normally, you would have thrashed, but today you missed it entirely.

The men are now silent and have wrapped their arms around your neck in an embrace. With your head low you see that your previously sunlit tracks are now encompassed in a shadow that has expanded across the landscape. Suddenly, the imprints are painted in droplets of wet soil. Along with the touch of the men, you feel hundreds of water beads sprinkle your body. You perk your head up and allow the droplets to run down the crevasses of your hide. Almost miraculously, in the same instant the rain appeared, the pain in your hindleg has dissipated completely. So contently, you let your head droop one last time and your breath to slow even further. As your eyelids begin to fall you catch a glimpse of you imprints, now filled with water almost indistinguishable from the Kenyan terrain. And so, in the place which you lay, with the embrace of your friends and the patter of rain, you sink in the soil, make one last imprint on the world, and let your eyes shut for the final time.

Photographs by Ami Vitale

Thanks for reading! Email me (openthoughtblog@gmail.com) and let me know how I did or if you have any critiques, comments or recommendations. If you liked this or any other post, please consider subscribing. :)