Sunday, 2 September 2012

Drawing Rhinos ~

She was called Tracy. Tracy the white rhino. She was wearing an earring when I first met her, quietly grazing on lucerne in a boma constructed of gum poles. I whipped out a pencil and paper and started to draw her. I was working as a safari guide and took any chance I could to take visitors back to see her, encouraging them to draw too. There was a population of fifteen white rhino already in the game reserve where I lived. In the reserve across the river they had black rhino who thrived in the dense bushvelt. I visited them too, sketching away from the back of an open Toyota Landcruiser. The warden's wife adopted and brought-up an abandoned baby black rhino she called Bwana who we fed with milk from a huge Cola Cola bottle. His saliva made out finger-nails become coarse and ridged.

In the mid 1990s I set up a wildlife serial called 'Dawn to Dusk' for the BBC Natural History Unit. I decided that it would be good to dedicate one episode to the work of Save the Rhino Trust in Namibia.

These are my sketches of some of the 2,500 ancient rock engravings made by Stone-age hunter-gatheres in the Kunene Region of Namibia about 6,000 years ago.

I had time to quickly draw copies of these remarkable bushmen engravings at Twyfelfontein when I was on the BBC recce but didn't manage to do more than take photographs when I was tracking with the game scouts. At one point we were charged by a cow - a rhino cow - called Rita. It was all I could do to hang onto my nerves whilst scrabbling up a tree.

Blythe Loutit, the Director of Save the Rhino Trust kindly invited me back a year later to take part in a rhino census. It was then that I was able to sketch the rare black rhino of Damaraland as well as the elephant roaming the desert. I was also able to use the unique wealth of ID photographs that the scouts had collected and filed.

Some of the rhinos had developed the most amazing shaped horns.

I translated my smaller ink drawings into silhouettes that the Rhino Trust could use for graphics.

This ink and watercolour sketch was drawn from one of Blythe Loutit's photographs. I executed a similar one in a grey platee which was auctioned at Phillips of Bond Street to raise funds for the charity Rhino Rescue.  It isn't brilliant but they entitled it 'Rhino's Bottoms and it brought a bit of laughter to the auction room.

This ink drawing of a white rhino was part of a set made into grettings cards sold in aid of The Born Free Foundation. As you can see they have a confirmation not unlike that of a horse ~ quite different from elephant who have four knees. They operate their pig-like ears independently, as shown here, rotating them like RADAR receivers, listening out for poachers.

If you need graphics of rhinos for any reason - let me know. I have a huge amount of drawings that have never been used.

Here is a shot of me riding past three white rhino who used to graze outside our house ~

All sketches on the blog are featured in 'Ride the Wings of Morning' and are (c) Sophie Neville. Please contact me if you need to use them on

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