“The point is that we are not too late to save the northern white rhino from extinction.“
The above quote was written by Douglas Adams in Last Chance To See, published in 1990. In 2008, 18 years later, the northern white rhino was declared extinct in the wild. Last year, one of the last four died in captivity; there are now only three left alive.
The moment I read Douglas’ words last night something inside me jarred. I knew something wasn’t right, I recalled reading about the northern white rhino only a few months ago. A quick search of the internet confirmed my worst fears and brought on a bout of sadness. The failure to take our chance to save the northern white rhino gave his words an added sense of unwanted poignancy. Those words were driven by hope, buoyed by the successful attempt to save the southern white rhino. Yet it proved to be a false hope, all of the 22 rhinos present in Zaire at the time when Douglas was there have perished.
I wonder what Douglas Adams would have thought had he lived to hear of the northern white rhino’s extinction (he sadly passed away in 2001). I imagine he would have been angry, and disappointed. Perhaps he would have reconsidered his words, perhaps we were too late to save the rhino.