End Of Year Happy #4

Black rhinos by nightPhoto: BBC

Black rhinos by night
Photo: BBC

There’s much that could be said about the rhinoceros, from its fearsome strength, to its rapid and sad decline due to hunting, to the recent differentiation of northern and southern white rhinoceroses into two distinct species because they show such genetic disparity (making for six living species, the northern white being the rarest).

In an upcoming BBC One series, Africa, something was learned about the black rhino that surprised researchers and documentary filmmakers alike. The black rhino had always been considered a solitary species, with individuals seeking each other out purely for the purposes of propagation.

However, during the course of filming the documentary, a new, highly-sensitive starlight camera was employed to film the black rhino by night. And lo, it turns out that the black rhino, mostly reticent by day, is actually a sociable party animal by night. At a watering hole in the Kalahari, filmmakers were astonished to find large groups of rhinos, all ages and social standing, meeting up once the sun went down. Not only that, the animals were affectionate, playful and friendly with one another.

Why is this an End Of Year Happy?

Because I like the idea that there is always mystery awaiting to surprise and astonish, even among life at its most observed. Even when we know so much, there is so much more just beyond our sight. I like the implementation of something called a “starlight camera” to spy on secretly playful rhinos.

But most of all, I like the notion that creatures we consider grouchy, antisocial and generally uncooperative can prove us utterly wrong in our assumptions, that there can be communion and agreement in what looks like hostile territory if we just have the ability to see it – and sometimes this ability might require taking a completely new perspective.

And with that, I wish everyone a very happy 2013.

Read here and here about the BBC series and the work on rhinos.

Here is more information on the starlight camera.

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