"In Namibia a radical solution [to stop the wholesale slaughter of rhinos] has been triedremoving the rhino's horns to remove the poacher's desire to kill. The two authors ... and their young daughter ... spent 3 seasons in Namibia ... dehorning rhino and researching the wildlife biology of this species. The book is a narrative of their time in Namibia. It reads like a novel, starting with their first tentative steps in the country and following their scientific and social interaction with the people of the country. Through their writing you can feel the heat and sweat, the exhilaration of the work and their reaction to feeling like unwanted invaders of privacy when meeting with remote tribes people. When their fourth session of work is stopped before it really starts because of politics, the reader gets and object lesson about the politics of conservation. This book is every bit as good as 'Out of Africa' but with a lot more good ecology in it."Bulletin of the British Ecology Society
Reviews from the cloth edition: "Horn of Darkness, a fast-moving adventure about field studies in the Namib desert, is also an object lesson about the politics of conservation. When the Namibian government began to de-horn black rhinos in the early 1990s as a deterrent to poachers, Berger and Cunningham were welcomed as guest scientists to examine the biological consequences. Their gypsy-like quest for data contains humor, understanding, and the insight that the human dimension, rather than biology, poses the greatest challenges to wildlife conservation." Chris Wemmer, Smithsonian Institution
"Horn of Darkness accomplishes an important purpose. Though happily devoid of preachments or rhapsodic sighs about the wonders of nature, it conveys the importance of conservation, even as it dispels any illusions that the task is easy. One reads Horn of Darkness and wishes its authors and their brethren success for the sake of all of us, rhinoceroses included."The New York Times
"These remarkable authors, Carol Cunningham and Joel Berger, show that the process of Science is subject to the distortions of political agendas, of whimsical authority. Yet their trials are described with sensitivity, emotion, humor and a deeply felt commitment to the future of humankind and their fellow species and environments." A. R. E. Sinclair, Professor of Ecology and Director, Centre for Biodiversity Research
"A compelling tale of how scientists work under physically and politically challenging conditions in an attempt to determine if radical management can help conserve one of the world's most critically endangered mammals in one of the world's wildest places. The reader is treated to a blend of science with a unique personal perspective into the family life of field biologists."Steven R. Beissinger, Division of Ecosystem Sciences, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California, Berkeley
"More than a nature study or adventure story, Horn of Darkness is a melange of politics, economics, hope, despair, and intestinal fortitude. It's a great read, because it's real."Dr. Andy Phillips, Deputy Director, Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species, Zoological Society of San Diego
"Few would have had the courage to take their families into the harsh and lonely landscape of the Namib; even fewer would have returned with so much for science, humanity and the wildlife they studied.... This book is a must read for anyone seeking insight into the lives of those who struggle to conserve endangered species and those who want to know more about the desperate plight of the black rhinoceros."Mark Dykes, Administrative Director, Owens Foundation for Wildlife Conservation
"In alternating chapters, the two authors plait their days afield into a delightful memoir: how they learned to track, to dodge rhino charges, to overcome all the logistical problems of cameras and auto mechanics and night-vision and life without a tossed salad."Kirkus Reviews
"It is, finally, the variety of subjects touched on that makes these researchers' lives vividly real to young adults."School Library Journal
An object lesson in field research hazardsboth the physical and the political.
Consider the black rhinoceros, fearless, scattering lions and elephants as it motors along at 30 mph. Now consider that in less than 100 years its numbers have shriveled from 100,000 to 3,000, cut down by machine-gun-toting poachers desirous of their horns, made of a keratin-like substance similar to fingernails that brings huge sums in Hong Kong; it is valued for its medicinal qualities in China, Korea, and Taiwan and as dagger shafts in Yemen. Cunningham and Berger, of the University of Nevada, Reno, spent four years in the Namibian Desert, studying in particular the effects on the rhinos of dehorning, which had come into vogue as a means of harvesting the horns' wealth while saving the animals themselves from poachers. In alternating chapters, the two authors plait their days afield into a delightful memoir: how they learned to track, to dodge rhino charges, to set up house in a Land Rover with their toddler daughter, to overcome all the logisitical problems of cameras and auto mechanics and night-vision equipment and life without a tossed salad. Berger gets in a few volleys condemning the treatment of the local population by European imperialists, and he appreciates the simple fact that starving people will understandably kill endangered species to survive. But rhinos were his preoccupation. Perhaps too much so; when he wrote a paper with his wife questioning the value of dehorning (he raised the issue of calf mortality as a possible consequence of dehorned mothers left unable to defend for them), he ran hard against national pride and the fact that legally cut horns could be sold by the state for hard currency. Namibia gave Cunningham and Berger the bum's rush and told them not to return.
Consider the black rhinoceros, and pity him too; without Cunningham and Berger in his corner, his future gets that much dimmer.