I just read this heart wrenching article about the extinction of the western black rhino. It devastated me.
I know that species of insects and birds become extinct each day, and I find that upsetting as well, but there is something so special about the rhinoceros; to read that such a massive, prehistoric creature is now extinct pulls at strong emotions inside of me.
For as long as I can remember I have been an African animal lover. Year after year of my childhood I asked my parents if we could take a family safari trip. My parents were never that into the idea, and I continued to dream about the day I would see these great animals. In 2008 I got my chance. I was given a professional development opportunity to teach in the Kenyan highlands.
Wanting to make sure I saw the animals I had loved so much, I extended the trip and went on safari in Tanzania and Kenya. It was an experience that will stay with me forever…and that is the understatement of the century.
My memories from my safari are incredibly vivid, more vivid than anything in my life (with the exception of childbirth and saying I DO). I remember watching in complete awe the first time I saw an elephant in the wild. It crossed the jeep road in front of us, and it was double the size that I had ever imagined.
Our guide told us stories about the herd’s habits and how the herd is mostly female. Young bulls travel with the females, but they are turned away when they are old enough, to find a mate. For days they trail the herd in partial hiding, and then one day decide to go off on their own. I found that idea, of a young bull trailing his mom at a distance, upsetting yet fascinating. The emotions of elephants were oddly clear when we were in a crowded part of the Serengeti and there was a herd by a watering hole. Five or six jeeps pulled up to give the tourists a view of the elephants playing in the water, and all the cameras came out. The elephants, as if having discussed this at a roundtable, all lined up, butts facing the jeeps and just stood still. Anyone taking a picture that day got a shot of a bunch of elephant rear ends.
But my clearest African memory came with my first rhino sighting. We were nearing the end of our safari and in our week on the road we still had not seen a rhinoceros. Our guide had warned us that they were hard to see, as they did not come close to jeeps or people. They tend to be independent animals, spending time alone or with one other, and they were very still creatures that didn’t show much movement. Our guide stopped suddenly and cut the engine. He spoke softly and told us to look east. There they were – two spots on the horizon. They didn’t move, didn’t even blink, and were completely aware of our every move. Looking at the two rhinos that day you would have thought they were statues in the grass. Non threatening and beautiful, these animals captured my heart and I remember the thoughts that went through my head, most of them surrounding the fact that people actually hunt and hurt these majestic creatures. I am going to be completely cheesy here, but when I look back on that moment I can cry easily. I was so lucky to have a moment with the rhinos, and I will never forget it.
Bean’s room is filled with safari animals because I want her to understand and fall in love with these creatures as I have. I will do my best to read her books about these magical animals, and tell her stories about my trip to Africa. When we are not faced with these animals every day, and they are so far away, books are one important way we can help our little ones understand. Literacy is not just about being able to read, but being able to connect with the world around us.
This post is a reminder to bring the unique and special to your children through books. Put down that book about the bunny rabbit and grab a story about a llama, a warthog, or a peacock. Show them your passion and teach them about the animal that you love.
Passion and knowledge grow perspective and compassion. Through books you can teach your child to love the world, love the creatures around them, and find their adored animal.