In America there are animals of all shapes and sizes, from the tough, individualistic armadillos of Texas to the banal, dependent tuna off the Bay Area coast. Today, we will study the declining state of the rhino, that mighty beast once identified with strength and vigor that now bumbles its way into the obscurity of old age and, ultimately, extinction. We’ll see how its feeding customs, physical characteristics, and reproductive habits contribute to the downfall of this onetime leader of the American wilderness.
We find the rhino in its natural habitat: the communal watering hole. This district is where the action happens. Animals from distant corners of the land congregate to talk, trade, and make those decisions that will affect them all. In years past, the watering hole was known for simplifying and encouraging symbiotic relations between individual animals, but drought and hunting had brought hardship upon the wilderness. The rhino, once the epitome of hard work and self-reliance, now advocated systems of collection and distribution. As one of these grey-skinned brutes might bellow,
Roughly translated, this herd-pleaser means “We need to make sure everyone has food, has water, has the things that they need to live in this wilderness.”
It worked, for a while. But problems began to creep up, as often happens among animals. Some creatures started to rely wholly upon the system, others (including the rhinos themselves) used their support for the system to garnish their own food stores. The watering hole degenerated into a place of corruption, catering more to the selfish desires of the animals than to their desire for interaction.
Before long, a new development swept the watering hole. With the system of cooperation in place, some of the animals suggested that they should eliminate traits of aggression or predation. If animals eat together, they shouldn’t need to fight each other. Some say that the lion doesn’t need his claws: but how else will he scratch himself? Some say the crocodile doesn’t need her tail: but how else will she swim? After much deliberation, the animals agreed that if any of them should lose something, it’s the rhino. His horn is intimidating and only used for aggression – it is totally unnecessary for survival. The animals decided that the rhinos needed to lose their horns. Far from arguing, the rhinos agreed.
With the loss of their horns, our rhinos might be considered RINOs – Rhinos In Name Only. While the other animals would never openly mock them, there was always a hint of derision in their interaction. RINOs just looked ridiculous eating from the public stores with their hornless faces. The species slowly sank into a group depression. Without their distinct quality, what good are they?
This question remains unanswered until we see the fruit – or lack thereof – produced by the rhinos. When the rhinos lost their defining trait they also lost their desire to perpetuate their race by raising offspring. There is no identity on which to found a rhino family, so they seek fulfillment in other areas. This is a dangerous tactic in the long run: if there is no reproduction, how can such a species survive?
Ultimately, it cannot. We last encounter the rhinos as they are at this moment: old and approaching senility. In a convenient twist, our rhinos closely resemble many of the Republicans on Capitol Hill: ancient, drooling, and hardly capable of coherent thought. Many of these Republicans are also reminiscent of rhinos in appearance, with crusty, discolored skin and wrinkled, hairy bodies.
Let us not lose hope, however. As the rhinos slowly die of old age, a new generation of faster, stronger, and less unattractive mammals arrive. Though these new creatures are as yet untested, they promise a wilderness of prosperity. As long as they do not abandon their principle traits, the next generation of animal leaders will deliver where our old friends the rhinos failed.