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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sad Rhinos

This is Yebonga, the Southern White Rhinoceros at the Tucson Zoo. White rhinos are the most sociable of all the species, and so, when we visited this one, I couldn't help but feel a sense of wistful loneliness from her as she went about her daily business. Yebonga is about 35 years old, a bit older than the average life expectancy of one of her wild relatives. I'm under the impression that she used to have a companion in her enclosure who has now passed away, possibly of old age, because no proper zoo would have a single white rhino on purpose (and overall the Tucson Zoo is very well done). Even her horn looks droopy with sadness, poor old gal. My husband and I wanted to take her to another zoo to be with other rhinos, just because there aren't any big rhino refuges that we know of around here.

I'm using Yebonga's picture to illustrate my disappointment at having a rhinoceros story rejected recently. I had written what I thought was a charming fantasy that included a (possibly naive) solution to poaching problems in Africa. The idea sprang from the call for papers from the very anthology that rejected the story, so I wrote it specifically for that publication, which feels especially personal. Some people (a lot of people?) just don't like charming fantasies. Every time I get one of my many upbeat stories rejected, I think the only stuff that gets published is chronicles of addiction, alienation, illegal activity, and man's inhumanity to man. That's probably an exaggeration, but really, lighten up, people! Don't we have enough doom and gloom in real life? Why would I be interested in writing about it?

Yebonga has a lesson to teach us. Even though she's sad, she keeps right on being the best rhino she can be, with a great deal of dignity. So, following her example, I will assimilate the rejection and keep plugging away to find a place for my happy rhino story. I think Yebonga would love to read it. I'm hoping some people will, too.