This Rhino is a Work of Art
In 1999, I went on safari in Kenya. I saw no rhinos.
Because there are so few of them left in the world.
On a hot sunny day in September, (actually it was yesterday) I went on a quest to find a rhino herd that recently migrated to the city of Southampton, England. The herd is 97 strong with 61 baby rhinos.
Dressed in safari style shorts and armed with my camera, I boarded the No 6 bus to the city. I used to have notions of becoming the next David Attenborough when I was a child. On sighting the first rhino lurking outside the ruined city walls, I approached cautiously from upwind (not that there was any breeze, but just to be sure). Rhinos have poor eyesight put jolly good hearing and smell.
Crouching low, I whispered excitedly to the camera in true Attenborough style, keeping one eye on the strange creature close by.
“Here we have the lesser spotted species of Rhino.”
I swept my hair from face and wiped the sweat from my brow and upper lip with the back of my hand and looked straight at the lens.
“The herd is unique as it’s the only one yet discovered to inhabit cities. This is ‘Newton’. Can you see the lizard clinging to his belly and the golden snake on his back? A rare sight indeed. I’m going to try and get closer.”
Startled by a voice saying, “Here we are. We’re somewhere in the circle. Ah, yes, You Are Here!” I looked up to see a couple examining the city map next to the walls. They seemed oblivious to me and my rhino.
“Are you visiting the city for the first time?” I asked.
Within minutes, we were talking about our love of wildlife and the reasons behind the slaughter of the earth’s fabulous but scarce animals.
Why any man with half a grain of intelligence would think that slaughtering a rhino and grinding up his horn and putting it in a drink would give him a better erection is beyond me. He’d be better off chewing his nails because they’re near enough the same thing. But I suppose, if a man has no confidence in his erection he’s probably chewing his nails anyway. I suggest eating fennel. That’ll give you the horn. Which reminds me, I must plant some in the allotment, not that I need any, but I can always give some away to those that do.
Orders now being taken.
The rhinos are not real as I’m sure you’ve long since realised, but a mass public art exhibition called Go Rhinos aimed at raising awareness of the precious and nearly extinct herbivore. It eats shoots and leaves. Let’s hope I’ve got the punctuation correct. I should tell you about the notices attached too. Especially the bit that tells you not to climb on the sculptures in case of injury. I suppose that’ll be the ‘Nanny State’, the Elf and Safety, rules because it doesn’t seem to stop people doing it. Oh how I longed to climb on and say “Gee up Rhino”.
I moved on and found ‘Dock’ rhino. As you would imagine, he lives near the dock and his camouflage markings of cranes help him to blend in discreetly. Actually, his territory is the roundabout on the Western Esplanade where I found a young girl called Charlie who had befriended him. She was clutching a sign which read ‘BESTIVAL TICKET’. Unable to make Bestival on the Isle of Wight, her ticket was for sale. Within minutes the ticket was sold and a happy chappy hopped aboard the Red Funnel Ferry.
You may be gladdened to hear that I only went on a short excursion and this article only covers a few rhinos. Otherwise you could be reading all day long if I wrote about all 97 and the people I met along the way. So I’ll skip to my favourite rhino. His name is Reggie. He sits on a grassy mound beside The Wool House happily munching on the crispy brown thatch that was lush and green before the long hot summer days.
He’s a yachtie. With his skin of blue sky, candy floss clouds and seagulls swooping, colourful spinnakers billow in the breeze as the sailors race for glory. Hopefully he will be mine when the herd migrates to the auction rooms in October.
I was getting a bit peckish so I backtracked to the Pig in The Wall for a spot of alfresco lunch. Isle of Wight Tomato Bruschetta, a small glass of Rosé and a jug of water were ordered. I watched some trail walkers with their laminated maps and some with their apps give ‘Newton’ a gentle pat. There were photos aplenty before the groups trudged past in their hiking boots. I looked down at my flip flopped feet and saw the savannah dust between my toes. The time had come for me to return to the village and set up camp for the night.
I foraged for blackberries and apples and put a crumble together. My partner, who was working with the natives, came back with a tub of double cream.
“How was your day Darling?” he asked.
“Totes Amazeballs,” I replied, “I went on a Rhino Safari.”
I wrote a Travel Tip for The Guardian’s Top Free attraction in the UK – This Rhino is a work of art