Deep End | Potshot: Ralph the rhino explains BYU’s conservation effort | News | Salt Lake City Weekly

Deep End | Potshot: Ralph the rhino explains BYU’s conservation effort 

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We found Ralph wallowing in his favorite mud hole in the heart of the African savannah. He is a large fellow, about 9 feet long, 6 1/2 feet at the shoulders, and weighing in at 7,000 pounds, which is more than your Chevy Suburban. He has a massive head and an impressive front horn, which he told us was 5 feet long (though later one of his wives—Ralph has a quorum of 12—told us it was closer to 4).

Because Ralph is a white rhino, we were surprised that his hide was a shade of gunmetal gray:

City Weekly: We had been led to believe that you were white. Are you an imposter, or have you been wallowing too long in the mud?

Ralph: Are you some sort of smart-ass? [Ralph’s voice is faintly reminiscent of James Earl Jones’ rich bass, though it is tinged with just a trace of a South African accent.] We’ve never been white, but the silly-ass Englishmen who came down here made a typical stupid human mistake. The original Dutch settlers called us “wyd” rhinos because of our big “wide” mouths, which allow us to graze with great efficiency the abundant grasslands. The proper characterization of our species, Ceratotherium simum, is “wide-mouthed” rhinoceros.

CW: Glad to have that cleared up. But what we want to know is: Have you gotten wind of the controversy over in our part of the world regarding the rhino Brigham Young University commissioned to have killed to provide an educational experience for visitors to its Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum?

Ralph: Dead Science Museum would be more like it. Anyway, sure, we know all about it, and we’re none too happy about how the imbeciles at BYU are trying to justify the murder of one our mates. He was my second cousin, by the way—a big galoot named Howard, and he never hurt a flea.

CW: As we understand it, according to a report in a local paper, museum officials are “confident that regulated killing and export of Africa’s rare animals poses no threat” to your species.

Ralph: You gotta be kidding me. “Regulated killing?” Me and some of the guys here are thinking about heading up to Provo and engage in some regulated killing of our own, targeting specifically the museum’s vertebrates-collection manager Wesley “Skip” Skidmore and Draper businessman and prolific trophy hunter Fred Morris, who shot poor Howard like he was shooting fish in barrel. By the way, what kind of a grown man calls himself “Skip?”

CW: Surely you’re not suggesting that the regulated killing of surplus rhinos is the moral equivalent of hunting down a distinguished vertebrates-collection manager, let alone a Draper businessman and prolific trophy hunter?

Ralph: Let me propose a thought experiment just to sort of turn the table. Let me read an excerpt from the Nov. 14 Salt Lake Tribune, imagining that businessman and trophy hunter Fred Morris has been shot and shipped to the Provo campus instead of my friend Howard the white rhino:

“Because Skidmore didn’t have access to the full carcass of Draper businessman Fred Morris, he had to pick a form out of a catalog. Meanwhile, the trophy hunter’s skin is at the museum in a freezer, where it has been folded up to the size of a suitcase. Over the next two or three months, taxidermists will mount Morris’s skin on an expandable polyurethane form as part of an ongoing exhibit at the Bean Museum. Visitors will be able to observe Skidmore work the trophy hunter’s skin in the central atrium.” Of course, if you folded up the Draper businessman’s skin, it wouldn’t be the size of suitcase like my second cousin Howard, but more like the size of a lady’s handbag.

CW: You go too far, Ralph. BYU killed Howard, a surplus rhino, merely to provide an educational experience for our kids. And, what’s more, the money it cost to shoot Howard went to a fund to protect rhinos. Finally, as proof of the purity of the trophy hunter Morris’s motives, you should know he did not even take a tax deduction for donating his services to BYU.

Ralph: All I can say is that we don’t kill for the fun of it and then pat ourselves on the back for our noble motives. Speaking of backs, the sun is killing me. Time for another wallow in my mud hole.

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