Horn of Darkness: Rhinos on the Edge

Paperback | February 27, 2000

byCarol Cunningham, Joel Berger

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The black rhino is nature's tank, feared by all animals. Even lions will break off a hunt to detour around one. And yet the black rhino is on the edge of extinction, its numbers dwindling from 100,000 at the turn of the century, to less than 2,500 today. The reason is that in places likeYemen, China, Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand, the rhino's horn is more valuable than gold, so valuable that people will risk their lives to harvest it. To deter rhino poachers, African governments have spent millions--on helicopters, paramilitary operations, fences and guard dogs, even relocation toprotected areas. Finally, Namibia decided to de-horn its rhino population, in a last ditch effort to stop the slaughter. In 1991, Carol Cunningham and Joel Berger, and their eighteen-month-old daughter Sonja, went to Namibia to weigh the effects of de-horning on rhinos. In Horn of Darkness, theytell the story of three years in the Namib Desert, studying Africa's last sizable population of free-roaming black rhinos. This is the closest most readers will come to experiencing life in the remaining wilds of Africa. Cunningham and Berger, writing nate chapters, capture what it is like to leave the comforts of civilization, to camp for months at a time in a land filled with deadly predators, to study ananimal that is reclusive, unpredictable, and highly dangerous. The authors describe staking out water holes in the dead of the night, creeping to within twenty-seven meters of rhinos to photograph them, all the while keeping a lookout for hyenas, elephants, and lions. They recount manyheart-pounding escapes--one rhino forces Carol Cunningham up a tree, an unseen lion in hot pursuit of hyenas races right past a frozen Joel Berger--and capture the adrenaline rush of inching closer to a rhino that might flee--or charge--at any moment. They also give readers a clear sense of thecareful, patient work involved in studying animals, the frustration of long days without finding rhinos or seeing other people, coping with heat and thirst (the Namib desert is one of the driest on Earth), with dirt and insects, driving hundreds of kilometers in a Land Rover packed to capacity,slowing amassing records on one hundred individual rhinos over the course of several years. And perhaps most important, the authors reveal that the data they collected suggests that the de-horning project might backfire--that in the four years after de-horning began, calf survival was down (theevidence suggests that hyenas might be preying on calves and the horn less mothers couldn't defend their offspring). They also describe the dark side of scientific work, from the petty jealousy of other scientists--outside researchers were often seen as ecological imperialists--to the controversythat erupted after the authors published their findings, as furious officials of the Namibian conservation program denounced their findings and through delays and other tactics effectively withheld a permit to allow the couple to continue their study. Weaving together the historical accounts of other naturalists, a vividly detailed look at life in the wild, and a behind-the-scenes glimpse of scientific work and the dark side of the conservation movement, Horn of Darkness is destined to be a classic work on the natural world.

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From Our Editors

This vividly written account by a husband-and-wife scientific team explores living out in the wilds of Africa studying the black rhino. Part travelogue, part adventure story, Horn of Darkness reveals that Namibia's highly touted de-horning program might not be working because de-horned mothers are not able to protect their young from p...

From the Publisher

The black rhino is nature's tank, feared by all animals. Even lions will break off a hunt to detour around one. And yet the black rhino is on the edge of extinction, its numbers dwindling from 100,000 at the turn of the century, to less than 2,500 today. The reason is that in places likeYemen, China, Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand, the rh...

Carol Cunningham and Joel Berger have worked as a team for fifteen years studying conservation and wildlife issues from Africa and Alaska to the Great Basin Desert. They both work at the University of Nevada, in Reno, and live up in the Sierras.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 2.99 × 4.49 × 0.51 inPublished:February 27, 2000Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195138805

ISBN - 13:9780195138801

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Table of Contents

A Black Rhino Time LineMapI. YEAR OF THE MOPANE FLY [1991]1. In the Rhino's Path2. Bumbling around in the Bush3. Trial by Fire4. Etosha5. Dark Nights and Moonlight6. Mom7. The Unforgiving Desert8. A Tracker Appears9. It Depends on Your Perspective10. Through the Eyes of a Poacher11. "The Missus"II. YEAR OF THE TSONGOLOLO [1992]12. A Caprivi Crossing13. Rhino Illusions14. Namib Edge15. Buried in Sand16. Lions and Hyenas17. The Dead and the Brave18. Concrete Corridors19. Of Science and EcologyIII. YEAR OF THE SCORPION [1993]20. The Europa Hof21. Trails of Dust22. Of Moths and Maggots23. The Zimbabwe Massacre24. Missing Calves25. The Witch Doctor's Revenge26. The Pelvis and the Lion27. Horn TradersIV. YEAR OF THE HUMAN [1994]28. Rhino Rhetoric29. XenophobiaEpiloguePostscriptAcknowledgmentsGlossarySelected BibliographyIndex

From Our Editors

This vividly written account by a husband-and-wife scientific team explores living out in the wilds of Africa studying the black rhino. Part travelogue, part adventure story, Horn of Darkness reveals that Namibia's highly touted de-horning program might not be working because de-horned mothers are not able to protect their young from predators.

 

Editorial Reviews

"It is, finally, the variety of subjects touched on that makes these researchers' lives vividly real to young adults."--School Library Journal