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Searching For The Black Rhino

Montana writer Rick Bass goes way into Africa on the trail of the 3000-pound black rhino.

A 4-year old Female black Rhino, runs after it was darted at Nairobi National Park, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2006. Kenyan wildlife officials began relocating 33 endangered rhinos to the Meru National Park to restock the animal. (AP)

A 4-year old Female black Rhino, runs after it was darted at Nairobi National Park, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2006. Kenyan wildlife officials began relocating 33 endangered rhinos to the Meru National Park to restock the animal. (AP)

Montana writer, nature writer, Rick Bass has brought us deep, beautiful stories of grizzly bear and high-country deer.  Wilderness and wolves.  Montana stars and sky and good dogs in pickup trucks.

Now he brings us a story out of Africa.  He’s a long way from his Montana mountains, in the fiery desert of Namibia, on the trail of the astounding black rhino.

Three thousand pounds of muscle and hide and horn.  Huge, and fast.  A time traveler from deep pre-history.  Deeply endangered in our time.  And saved, too.  For now.

This hour, On Point:  Rick Bass on the black rhino and us.

- Tom Ashbrook


Rick Bass, environmental activist and award-winning chronicler of the American western wilderness. His latest book is “The Black Rhinos of Namibia: Searching for Survivors in the African Desert.”

Simson Uri-Khob, Director of Community Outreach, Training and Research at Save the Rhino Trust in Namibia.

From Tom’s Reading List:

Minneapolis Star Tribune “In “The Black Rhinos of Namibia,” environmental activist and prolific author Rick Bass travels to Namibia to spend time with conservation groups and learn about the endangered black rhino. Although he doesn’t indicate a prior specific fascination with rhinos, Bass quickly becomes utterly enchanted by them.”

Open Letters Monthly “The Black Rhinos of Namibia, in which veteran geologist and nature-writer Rick Bass goes to that south-western African nation in search of its small population of black rhinos, is a haunting book because Bass is a prose stylist of great power – but it’s also a haunted book, because despite the hard-bitten optimism of its author, his story cannot have a happy ending.”

ABC News “As a growing number of endangered African rhinos are poached for their horns, officials and activists are scrambling for ways to halt the slaughter. Suggestions have included pre-emptively cutting off or poisoning their horns, or even deregulating their trade. But nothing promises to quell the insatiable demand for their powder in Asia.”

Excerpt: “The Black Rhinos of Namibia: Searching for Survivors in the African Desert”

Use the navigation bar at the bottom of this frame to reformat the excerpt to best suit your reading experience.


Click through the slideshow below to see some pictures of the black rhinoceros in Namibia and around the world.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • slensing

    I was born in Namibia and grew up in South Africa.  My father was a biologist who worked hard to help save the black rhinocerous from extinction.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HUHWX4TIAZRFNFYCWUE43OZDUQ 7LeagueBoots

    Namibia has had excellent success with Community Based Natural Resource Conservation.  The implementation of conservation strategies that hand over the majority of control to the local communities has worked far better than the past conservation attempts that have relied on a high degree of foreign pressure.

  • davidbohn

    our generation will be judged by the efforts we make to preserve these and other unique animals on this planet.  Thanks to Mr. Bass.

  • http://twitter.com/ajjlv Jahanve

    Twenty years ago my husband & I joined an Earthwatch team for a rhino census project in Zimbabwe.  We spent two weeks in the bush bordering Zambia searching for rhino footprints – each has their own distinct print.  We found one poached rhino, horn removed, and few tracks.  We traveled with heavily armed rhino experts and the results were dismal.  Poachers were evident everywhere.  The Rhino poachers were armed with AK 47s, and the lesser poachers used crude wire snares to lure unsuspecting animals to a slow strangulation.  I first fell in love with all things Africa after a trip to Kenya where I saw my first rhino.  An amazing awe inspiring creature.  My hope is that they will be saved.  Dagger handles for men in Yemen and aphrodesiacs for males in some Asian countries have had disastrous consequences.

  • BHA_in_Vermont

    Don’t shoot the poachers, shoot the people who buy from them.
    Instant removal of “the market”.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Tskaha Neytiri Tskaha

      You’d have to go to Beijing China. Better to prosecute (severely) the poachers and raise awareness, create an environment of shame around these practices, call the consulates/embassies and educate every opportunity you get!

  • turtledoggy

    the mcgeyver clip was correct…sick is exactly the word that comes to mind.  rhinos, elephants, sharks, dolphins etc…what gives us the right to hack an animal for parts and leave it to suffer.  it’s disturbing that cultures ignore the origin of these items.

  • davidbohn

    only half in jest…. can we get low-cost viagra to Asia to replace the nebulous benefits of rhino?

    • J__o__h__n

      Supposedly that is a myth (based on a quick internet search).  I was going to make a joke that if something needed to be cut off to save the rhinos, it shouldn’t be the rhino horns.

  • stillin

    Please ask the guide from the reserve why there was a “trophy hunt”? I didn’t get that. I thought it was a protected species so I am wondering why this trophy hunt was allowed?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HUHWX4TIAZRFNFYCWUE43OZDUQ 7LeagueBoots

      I don’t know about this particular case, but often in portions of Namibia and elsewhere if animal numbers can support it a very limited amount of extremely expensive trophy hunting will be allowed to bring money to local communities and organizations doing conservation work.

  • stillin

    It’s not surprising to me that there are only 10,11, comments here, but I find it telling and sad. If this was a discussion on money, on stocks, politicians, then it would be in the hundreds. The hunted, haunted, stalked and poached Black Rhino, 10. I hope to go to Africa some day just to stand before any of the vanishing species, this one included. I wonder if the African bug will bite me, making me never want to come home, which is my greatest fear.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=554895410 Hrh Hindle


    It is important to stress the extreme violence and cruelty
    involved in all forms of poaching. Rhino hunting may occur almost a world away
    from the USA however is horrendous and brutal, and it usually involves these
    beautiful majestic animals being attacked by cowards with high-powered rifles. Their
    horns are then literally hacked off of their faces while they are still alive,
    leaving them to bleed to death in pain.


    From what I have directly experienced Rhinos are anything
    but monsters, rather they defy all stereotypes. They can be gentle playful,
    fierce, aloof and cranky, even caring
    parents, and they deserve to be seen as such. Most importantly, they are not
    commodities to aid short morons across the globe with their virility problems.


    I wholeheartedly support South African rangers who shoot
    poachers on site along the borders.  I
    would also like to tell all future “Hunters” to stay the hell away from my
    country (and Southern Africa) if your only intention is to prop up your weak
    ego by placing an animal head trophy on your wall—e.g. Donald Trump’s lazy,
    useless, insensate McDonalds stuffed self-indulgent son, who is partial to
    shooting leopards…may your gun jam.


    Conservation Donations:





















  • SK

    sorry they are all gone ,rhinos,tigers sharks and so many more,all gone into the “CHINESE POT OR MEDICENE CHEST.”

    • http://profiles.google.com/alexzavatone Alex Zavatone

      It’s spelled “medicine”, by the way. 

  • Pointpanic

    I’m with you HIndle .May their guns jam or blow up in theri own faces. Humanoids like that are a dime a dozen . There’s no replacing the rhinos or other endangered animals.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Tskaha Neytiri Tskaha

    Incredible to me that there are only a few comments on this most important issue. And thank you to Tom for highlighting this issue and attempting to bring it to the forefront. China, Vietnam, Thailand and Korea and notorious in their roles for sustaining the “killing/violence” FAIL/SHAME on China in particular for subsidizing an industry – the Traditional Chinese Medicine Industry that openly deals with Rhino Horn in Beijing, China. It can do so much it only it cared a little more about the Earth vs Making the next million for its industry. 


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1042404403 Lisa Shaw

    I too am saddened by the lack of comments.  These magnificent animals are be slaughtered at an alarming rate and the drivel that the public focuses on is pathetic.  I can only help with meager donations but wish to do more.  Thank you for this program and Mr. Bass for his book.  I hope we wake up in time to save rhino and the rest of the animals being slaughtered – tigers, elephants, leopards, snow leopards, lion, the list goes on and on and on.

  • Michele

    I agree that our focus as a country is out of whack but having access to the audio would probably increase the number of comments.  Currently, the page does  not have a link to the show!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1042404403 Lisa Shaw

       I really want to hear this so I will write and see if and when an audio link will be available.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1042404403 Lisa Shaw

    I find it a bit ironic that the other show on the same day is about our being braggarts and spending perhaps too much time on the trival – http://onpoint.wbur.org/2012/08/20/braggarts

  • http://profiles.google.com/alexzavatone Alex Zavatone

    Where is the podcast for this episode?

    It’s great seeing some progress in rhino protection, since too many of them are getting killed in South Africa for the Chinese medicine trade.

  • Michele

    What struck me most in looking at the slideshow is that while they are huge muscular animals there is a vulnerability and shyness to them. 

    I went on an elephant safari in Sri Lanka 2 years ago and have never felt so ashamed in my life to be human.  I looked around at all of humans gawking and taking photos and thought how much like toddlers the human race is – running around the planet, smashing and grabbing, destroying without much thought.  These animals hold such wisdom in their ability to survive and co-exist never-mind the very length of time their lines reach back into history. It’s time we listened.

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