When you settle into a routine new habits are developed; these habits become so natural and part of our everyday life that it’s hard to realize that while they have become second nature, they stand out in their oddness from our previous way of life.
Every night I fool myself into thinking I can hear a lion roar (even when in Miami), every time I hear something barking I ask out loud “where’s the leopard?” and every time see a beautiful full moon I pray that the “Poacher’s Moon” won’t take any rhinos that night.
One morning after a full moon I bumped into two rhinos that seemed uneasy. The vast majorities of rhinos in this reserve are simply precious as they allow you to view them from quite close, so as soon as we found them and they showed an erratic behaviour, something felt out of place. They kept approaching us and then running away, constantly vocalizing.
“What on Earth?”
Suddenly one of them turned around, exposing an injury on his temple, above his eye. There were faint traces of blood. Strange. The rhinos seemed fine besides this and I interpreted their behaviour and injuries as the potential outcome of a territorial fight; both of them were males, it was a plausible assumption. Not wanting to put any additional stress on them I finished my drive and then reported the unusual sighting to our ecologist. He came to the same conclusion as I had, and so we left it at that.
On the following safari, they were found again. The wound however was much bigger and there was a thick trace of blood on the rhino’s face. Things didn’t seem so simple anymore and alarm bells started ringing. Murder attempt was becoming more of a possibility and an explanation. Everyone was put on alert: keep an eye on them, observe their status, report any unusual activity. While we all came to the same conclusion, no one wanted to say it out it loud.
After some close monitoring and inspection of the area, the truth came out: someone had sneaked into our reserve and had tried to kill our rhino. For reasons unbeknownst to us, he survived. His wound was taken care of and he only carried a small scar as a reminder of how cruel the fate of wildlife can be when sealed by human greed.
A few weeks later I saw him again, his spirit renewed and exhibiting that personality that had initially made him one of my favourites rhinos when we first met. He was a territorial male who was nice enough to allow in his presence the company of younger males. After weeks had gone by, the signs of his misfortune were only visible for those who know what to look for: a small scar on his temple and a droopy lip. Because of all this he became one of our stars, one of the few that the Poacher’s moon was not destined to take.
Because he survived he was henceforward known by the one name that fit him best: Titanium.