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  • Writer's pictureJeff Ulin

How I Was Roped Like a Rhino

Imagine trying to rope a rhinoceros, much like a calf, throwing a lasso around its

magnificent horn. Crazily enough, I once participated in a rhino rescue and in preparation

was tasked with playing the part of the rhino’s horn. It’s not a lot of fun being roped.

Perhaps I should go back a few steps.

Eons ago I volunteered on a rhino rescue project in Kenya, working as part of a team

training a local capture unit. Our mission was to find endangered black rhinos and

transport them to sanctuary areas. In practicing for what would be dangerous and

choreographed steps I drew the short straw, or in this case, the long horn. Once the rhino

was shot with a tranquilizer dart, we would quickly need to measure its size to adjust the

drug dosage. Time was critical: rhinos can weigh two to three tons, and we could have

been off hundreds of pounds estimating the sedative. The rhino’s life would depend on

how quickly we tied it down, put a bag over its head (I know, pulling a hood over its eyes

does not ring calming influence; just have to trust me), and calculated its body size. To

secure it, though, we first needed to rope it by the horn.

Knowing the rhino would thrash about, we practiced throwing a rope around… me. In

case you ever need to do this, here’s four easy steps. First, extend your arm, and bend

your elbow at ninety degrees: presto, one rhino horn. Second, keeping your arm bent,

sway your arm side to side, pulling it quickly across your body. Third, make a fool of

yourself swiveling your head and neck at the same time. Finally, frantically keep moving

your horn-arm and leathery head while lying on the ground waiting for some idiot to

lasso your horn-arm and tie you up. Scream TikTok video? As an alternative, I’ve made

three short videos talking about capturing and moving a rhino, which you can see at

This whole adventure inspired another story: The Lord’s Tusks. The plot of my new novel

involves a big game hunter waiting to inherit a Lordship who masterminds a poaching

ring smuggling rhino horns and elephant tusks. Thankfully my book is pure fiction; and

yet, there really are people who will slaughter some of the most majestic animals gracing

the earth in order to sell their parts for profit. I am in awe of these animals and

heartbroken that their survival is threatened by debunked tales (that powdered rhino horn

conjures up medicinal cures or bolsters sexual prowess) and criminal gangs. Take your

right hand, bend your elbow into a practice horn, and then cut it off with a machete. Now

you can feel like the last of the rhinos.

I hope you’ll read The Lord’s Tusks, and as a corollary to the story ponder why rhinos

and elephants are fighting for their lives. As horrific as the premise of the book may be, there is an underlying conservation imbued theme tugging to rescue these amazing creatures. In fact, the pending Lord’s scheme unravels when a researcher falls in love with his stepdaughter and vows to save the animals at all costs. If only we could rally

around a similar mission to protect these animals in real life. More important than reading

the book, I hope the story (and pondering why you should not hack off your horn-arm) may inspire you to think about the plight of endangered animals and become involved in

conservation efforts. On my website, next to the videos (how to tranquilize a rhino on the

open savanna, roping and moving a rhino, and feeding a rhino a carrot out of your hand) is a list of some worthy conservation organizations. Please consider supporting their

efforts, and please consider reading The Lord’s Tusks (available now on Amazon ).


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