So it was another of those kite-windy afternoons at Londolozi that you sometimes get in September and we were out hunting Rhinoceros. Typically on your fourth evening with the same guests you wouldn’t be so desperate to see one, but we had skillfully evaded them for days and so were under pressure to find one.
Pressure is defined in the dictionary as ‘The burden of physical or mental distress’. Most people reading this will quite easily identify with the squash of it, but the pressure of picking performing stocks or running board meetings or fighting expressway traffic is very different to the pressure of having to find a rhinoceros. If you squeeze a small khaki clad mind for long enough funny things start to happen and so puttering around likely rhino hiding places at 20kph I started thinking of Gary Larson.
There can’t be too many people in the western hemisphere that haven’t seen or chuckled at a Larson cartoon. His ‘Far Side’ cartoons appeared in newspapers around the world for 15 years and his 23 books sold 45 million copies. That’s a lot of toilets!
He retired fearing that he would eventually enter what he called the “Graveyard of Mediocre Cartoons.” I wish he had made a trip to Londolozi because he would certainly have found a wealth of material for a 24th book. He would have seen rhino tiptoeing through the riparian forest and crawling on their bellies, buttocks high, through the long grass…
When I looked Larson up on the internet I discovered that the various honours accorded him include some newly discovered creatures named after him: The Strigiphilus garylarsoni is a biting louse found on owls and there is anEcuadorian rain forest butterfly called Serratoterga larsoni . To complete the list of honours the Garylarsonus beetle also carries his name.
After the naming of the louse Larson wrote: “I considered this an extreme honor. Besides, I knew no one was going to write and ask to name a new species of swan after me. You have to grab these opportunities when they come along.”
It appears that naming new animals after celebrities and famous people is a new kind of sport and the list is endless and the reasons are likewise intriguing. I’ve added a few I liked but google the comprehensive list for a laugh as well as the outlandish explanations for them.
- Agathidium vaderi – Darth Vader (shiny, Darth-Vader-like head)
- Agra schwarzeneggeri – Arnold Schwarzenegger (carabid beetle with well developed ‘biceps’)
- Avahi cleesei – John Cleese (long-legged lemur)
- Campsicnemius charliechaplini – Charlie Chaplin (long-legged fly)
- Draculoides bramstokeri – Bram Stoker (small juice sucking arachnid)
- Norasaphus monroeae – Marilyn Monroe (hourglass-like shaped Trilobite)
- Preseucoila imallshookupis – Elvis Presley (gall wasp)
- Sylvilagus palustris hefneri – Hugh Hefner (marsh rabbit)
Windy afternoons aren’t ideal for finding Rhinoceros and they typically do ‘hide’. With a little of Jerry’s skill and a lot of luck we eventually found a Ceratotherium simum on the banks of the Sand River heading for an evening drink and wallow. (In case you are wondering: Ceratotherium: from the Greek cerato, meaning horn and therium, meaning wild beast; simum: from the Greek simus, meaning “flat nosed”.)
We too then headed for a sundowner at which point I wondered what exactly it was that afforded Larson such a brilliant, upside down view of the world of animals – he would certainly have been a brilliant guide.
Gary: if you’re reading this – there’s a Rangers course in January.