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The Black Rhinos of Namibia: Searching for Survivors in the African Desertby Rick Bass
Synopses & Reviews
From one of our most gifted writers on the natural world comes a stunning exploration of a unique landscape and the improbable and endangered animal that makes its home there.
Rick Bass first made a name for himself as a writer and seeker of rare, iconic animals, including the grizzlies and wolves of the American West. Now he's off on a new, far-flung adventure in the Namib of southwest Africa on the trail of another fascinating, vulnerable species. The black rhino is a three-thousand-pound, squinty-eyed giant that sports three-foot-long dagger horns, lives off poisonous plants, and goes for days without water.
Human intervention and cutting-edge conservation saved the rhinos — for now — from the brink of extinction brought on by poaching and war. Against the backdrop of one of the most ancient and harshest terrains on earth, Bass, with his characteristic insight and grace, probes the complex relationship between humans and nature and meditates on our role as both destroyer and savior.
In the tradition of Peter Matthiessen's The Tree Where Man Was Born, Bass captures a haunting slice of Africa, especially of the "black" rhinos that glow ghostly white in the gleaming sun.
"Novelist and memoirist Bass (Why I Came West) records his travels to Namibia to 'witness... a ponderous beast out upon such a naked and seemingly unsupporting landscape.' At Damaraland, in the Namib Desert, Bass encounters activist Mike Hearn of the Save the Rhino Trust. Throughout the book, Bass renders an affectionate portrait of Hearn and his life's work defending rhinos. No actual rhino appears until more than halfway through, when searches culminate in two perilous and riveting encounters. Later, Bass travels from Damaraland to the tamer and popular Etosha National Park. While the rhino's plight, and efforts to ensure its recovery, are given considerable attention, Bass's time in the desert, among its animals and vastness, focuses him on 'the big questions': the origin of life, the rhino's miraculous adaptation to the desert's austerity, and what humanity can learn from the magnificent animal. Time in the desert also yields touching meditations on time itself — its nature, and our experience of it. To describe the desert, another protagonist, Bass must examine the nature of perception: 'The barren land unscrolls before us as if being created by the very act of our seeing.' On occasion, Bass struggles to infuse the ruminations with poetry; his prose, packed with similes and comparisons, can be cumbersome. Agent: Robert Datilla, the Phoenix Literary Agency." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Acclaimed nature writer Rick Bass takes us on a journey into the Namib Desert to follow a group of poachers-turned-conservationists as they track the endangered black rhinos through their ancient and harsh African homeland.
Rick Bass takes us on a stunning exploration of an unique landscape, one of the most ancient and harshest on earth, and the improbable and endangered animal that makes its home there.
The black rhinos of the Namib Desert are super-survivors — muscle-clad, squinty-eyed giants with feet the diameter of laundry baskets. But until recently, the survival of these animals was very much in question and their numbers dwindled on the edge of extinction in Namibia.
In the tradition of Matthiessen's The Tree Where Man Was Born, Bass captures a slice of Africa — the haunting sound of doves cooing at first light each morning, the laughter of hyenas at night, the otherworldly heat — and most enduringly of all the "black" rhinos that glow ghostly white in the gleaming sun.
“An extraordinary exploration and meditation . . . [Bass] transports us along on this wonder-filled tour, full of hardness and hope, into an otherworldly place that mirrors our own.” —National Geographic Traveler
Black rhinos are not actually black. They are, however, giant animals with tiny eyes, feet the diameter of laundry baskets, and horns that are prized for both their aesthetic and medicinal qualities. Until recently, these creatures were perched on the edge of extinction, their numbers dwindling as they succumbed to poachers and the ravages of civil war. Now their numbers are rising, thanks to a groundbreaking new conservation method from the Save the Rhino Trust: make sure that rhinos are worth more alive than dead.
Rick Bass, who has long worn the uneasy mantle of both activist and hunter, traveled to Namibia to find black rhinos. The tale of his journey provides a deeper understanding of these amazing animals and of just what needs to be done to protect them.
“Bass provides a singularly thoughtful portrait of a unique animal, and a meditation on mankind’s relationship to both it and the natural world as a whole.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
About the Author
Rick Bass's fiction has received O. Henry Awards, numerous Pushcart Prizes, awards from the Texas Institute of Letters, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, among others. Most recently, his memoir Why I Came West was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award.
Table of Contents
Part I: Pastoral 1
Part II: Wild 77
Part III: Dust 197
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