Then & Now: African Rhinos

Top: President Theodore Roosevelt with a bull rhino in Africa. Bottom: A ranger stands watch over a dehorned white rhino.

Top photograph by Kermit Roosevelt. Copyright by Charles Scribner’s Sons. Bottom photograph by Brent Stirton.



In 1910, hunter-naturalist (and former President) Theodore Roosevelt embarked on a historic trip to Africa and came back with some 14,000 specimens of mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish. “The rhinoceroses were not as interesting as the elephants, because they were not as intelligent. After we had completed our collections of rhinoceroses it became quite a problem how to avoid them and get the other things we wanted,” Roosevelt described in the January 1911 article of National Geographic magazine. “It is amusing to realize how soon we got to accepting our difficulties with rhinos as a matter of course. Here in civilization if you asked a man to kindly go down and scare off a rhinoceros for you, the man would look at you with a certain surprise: in Africa it was a matter-of-course incident. When near a rhino there is always a chance that he will charge, whether through stupidity, or fright, or anger. The trouble is that one never knows whether he will or will not charge him.” (Related: "Taxidermist Preserves Roosevelt's Specimens")




In 2012, National Geographic magazine featured rangers in Africa who are protecting rhinos from poachers seeking horns. This tame northern white rhino, dehorned to deter poachers, grazes under the watch of rangers from Kenya's Ol Pejeta Conservancy. It is one of only seven known survivors in the subspecies. Transferred along with three other northern whites from a zoo in the Czech Republic, the rhinos, which had not produced offspring in captivity, were brought to the wild in a last-ditch effort to breed them back from the brink of extinction. (Related: "Rhino Wars")



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