When I was 9 years old my parents moved to Kenya, in Africa. It was an impressionable age for a child to move countries and I was struck by the amazing stories Africa had to offer, literally.
Once we settled in we’d heard a lot about two things – the Big 5 and the great Rift Valley. For the story of this post I’ll take you through the Big 5, we’ll leave the rift valley for another time. As most Indian families in the late eighties / nineties we had barely travelled except to visit family in other cities and on the rare occasion on a temple trip. Kenya was a whole different world, the country was small and could be traversed in car, good roads and new found interest led to more travel with the family.
As I understood later the Big 5 – which was a term coined for Game by hunters was used by the safari (trip / trip to see animals mostly in the national parks in the kenyan language kiswahili) tour people for marketing. As we visited the national parks across the country the sheer beauty of the country and its animals wowed us. Of the 5 – Elephant, Lion, Cape Buffalo, Rhinocerous and leopard, the mysterious and enigmatic Rhinocerous is what captured my imgination at the time. Finally when we managed to see one in Nakuru national park, it saw us as well, I will never forget the feeling of being spotted by a Rhino that then decides to charge, and getting into the car to get out of there without looking back. It’s a lifetime experience, and look back we did.
Why am I telling you this story? This morning I heard about Sudan, the last living male Northern white Rhino who passed away today, again, in Kenya. I knew the Rhinos are an endangered species but did not know that one was close to extinction. Like most things in our life we either take for granted or choose to ignore, the Rhinos had slipped out of my imagination to be replaced by the realities of urban lifestyles. When I heard of Sudan, I felt a strong sense of grief, such profound grief for my lost imagination.
As a child well into my teens I dreamt of a place like in the book ‘ Journey to the center of the earth’ a place undiscovered by man, hidden to all where all the magical, extinct beings we hear of still roam. A place where unicorns fly and rhinos rally, I realized this morning that I still believe in this place, and hope it exists.
I spoke to my children of Sudan, of the grandeur of the Rhinocerous, of beings big and beautiful that are on the brink of extinction. Speak to your child of the many wonders, teach them to love and be kind. Show them how to appreciate, respect and know this world they will own.
This is how we will remember Sudan, his paw prints on our memories.