|We Bowled for Rhinos at Franklin Park!|
This experience was so much more than I could have dreamed. Both my husband and I were moved to tears. We were so close that our pictures don't look very artsy, but Betsey Brewer, zoo co-owner and coordinator of this event, kindly stepped back and got pictures of us looking as if we were in a zoo and rhinos were visiting us!
It had been raining hard earlier in the day and other visitors had cancelled their rhino encounters. We were joined only by people who worked at the zoo. Betsey brought some of their nutritious hay with her, but as soon as they heard people inside the bars, both rhinos came out of the barn where they had been resting, just to get some attention. There was no preamble. They came right to us, like sailing ships with a smooth and premeditated gait. We had been informed where they liked to be touched, but I was so amazed at being so close to these giant beauties that I had to take a moment to collect myself.
The rain was kind to us that day. Not only did it let up in time for our encounter, but the damp and cool temperature meant that the rhinos had not been rolling in mud all day. They don't have sweat glands, so that's how they keep cool on a hot day. I had wondered if I would get dirty doing this, but these were the cleanest rhinos I've probably ever been in the presence of.
Betsey told an interesting story. When Louise was in transit at the port authority in New York, she was spooked by the inspectors and got her horn caught in one of the vent holes in her container. She was so riled that she ripped her horn right out! It would be like a human ripping out a fingernail. Her face looked rather concave for some time, but now the horn has grown back stronger than ever. It seems to be more sturdily in place than her companion's horn now.
|Watch the flicking action!|
The horns are compacted strands of keratin (a biomatter found in most mammals, and in human hair and fingernails). Rhinos like to rub their horns on rocks to shape them, and Thelma had been sharpening hers to a nice point. The rubbing is why you can see hairlike strands puffing out around the middle in these pictures. The horns don't feel like anything special. Touching the horn, you might never know there was such a wonderful creature attached to it. I emphasize: a rhino's horn is of no use to anyone but a rhino.
|They have strong neck muscles to hold up those big heads!|
And then it was over.
We left with a profound sense of peace. I'm not sure how long we were with Thelma and Louise because time stopped and nothing else was important. It was a joyful meditation that made us both effortlessly arrive at what matters most in the world. Anyone with stress issues should pet a nice rhino. Thelma and Louise produced only two anxieties in us: 1. What can we ever do for the rest of our lives that is so fulfilling? 2. How can we save all the beautiful species of rhino from human greed and stupidity?
So I look at my hands now, these hands that have been privileged to touch two lovely creatures with timeless souls. I ask, what can these hands do to make the world better?