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 ).