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The Last Two in the World - The Northern White Rhinos

A couple of years ago I fell deeply in love…with a Rhinoceros. Specifically the Northern White Rhino and its seven remaining members.

Sometimes a relationship is doomed from the start and this one qualifies. Those seven rhinos are now down to two, and since they are both female, there isn’t any chance of revitalizing the species. Najin and Fatu are the last remaining Northern White Rhinos on the planet.

Extinction feels a lot more real when you can watch it in slow motion — watch the last two of a species grow old and die together. This is going to happen in my lifespan and there’s nothing that anyone can do to stop it.

Northern White Rhino
Northern White Rhino - copyright Crystal Smith

A Declaration of Love

To commemorate our love (possibly it’s one sided) I took out my oils and charcoal to make a portrait of a noble rhino with horn in tact. I used heavy dark charcoal and focussed on geometric lines and angles in they rhinoceros painting. Then I used oil washes to mark out a silhouette and contrast areas. I painted the skin and horn with oil and used oil pastels for some of the final details.

The oil paint and charcoal worked well together to echo the dusty, ‘of the earth’, deep creased textures these giants carry. I left in some of the guidelines to make the piece feel less over-worked and keep a sense of roughness.

Northern White Rhino
Northern White Rhino work in progress

It’s Not You — It’s Me

It’s hard when a relationship doesn’t work out, but this one never stood a chance. Back in 1984 (when I was just a toddler) the population of the wild Northern White Rhinos was at about 15. People started to take notice and realized immediate action was needed. By 2003 the population had doubled. (Not bad when you realize that the gestation period is about a year and four months for each baby, and mothers have only one baby at a time.)

However, in only a short span of three years the wild Northern White Rhino was again down to just a handful of four. The Garamba National Park (in the Democratic Republic of Congo) was not a safe place for Rhinos. Poachers could not be controlled and now the wild rhinos in that area are considered extinct.

Safe Under Lock and Key — Captive White Rhinos

While the wild Northern White Rhinos were under siege by poachers, there were still six captive Rhinos being kept safe in the Czech Republic and then later moved to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Unfortunately, even these eternal looking animals have to deal with old age, and their life span is only 40–50 years at best. Taking a trip to Kenya to see the last two of these Rhinos is a lifelong ambition that I need to fulfil sooner rather than later, before the clock runs out for good.

You can bring home one of these rhinos in the form of a print or canvas from my shop. Not quite as good as the real thing, but not quite as large either.

Northern White Rhino - prints and canvases
Northern White Rhino - prints and canvases

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