Abc’s World of Discovery the Last Charge of the Rhino

The docu, hosted by James Brolin, illustrates conservationist efforts aimed at replenishing the dwindling rhino population (attempts that are clearly both too little and too late); it also inadequately addresses the rhino's only real hope: attacking the horn trade at the sale level and undercutting demand.

With:
Host: James Brolin. 'The Last Charge of the Rhino" succeeds in transforming viewer perceptions of the fierce-looking but good-natured behemoths of the African wild, but has trouble deciding if it wants to be a profile of the animal or an indictment of the flourishing black-market horn trade fueling its rapid extinction. Ultimately, the hour falls short on both counts.

The docu, hosted by James Brolin, illustrates conservationist efforts aimed at replenishing the dwindling rhino population (attempts that are clearly both too little and too late); it also inadequately addresses the rhino’s only real hope: attacking the horn trade at the sale level and undercutting demand.

Lacking the textured photographic beauty of a National Geographic documentary , “Last Charge” manages nonetheless to showcase the endangered African black rhino in a light that’s refreshingly free of the usual predatory cliches (not a single smash of a safari jeep, a la “Hatari!”).

We learn that while rhinos are “3,000 pounds of pure muscle,” they can be fed by hand, respond well to love and emerge nearly as affectionate as puppies when raised in captivity (such as one rhino named Tony who is born in the Denver Zoo).

TX: TX:Filmed in Africa, Australia, Texas and Colorado by ABC/Kane Prods. Intl. Executive producer, Dennis B. Kane; producers, James McQuillan, Franz J. Camenzind; writer/executive in charge of production, David R. O’Dell; But the black rhino horn has long been considered a cure-all in China and a treasured decorative ornament in many other parts of the world, fetching as much as $ 150,000 per horn. The magnificent beasts have been disappearing fromthe plains of Zimbabwe, Zambia and elsewhere in Africa. The docu points out that poachers armed with automatic weapons have slaughtered 95% of the rhino population since 1970.

Fewer than 2,000 are said to remain in the wild in isolated pockets of the continent, inspiring monumental protection efforts that include de-horning the rhinos to discourage killing. Instead, the procedure merely impairs the animal’s defenses in the bush.

Somewhat more effective in the quest to rebuild the rhino’s numbers: breeding at a sanctuary in Texas, as well as airlifts to safe havens in Australia. But as the docu shows, the female reproductive cycle of the rhino remains unpredictable , making mating or even artificial insemination a slow and formidable task.

Put it all together and you have a bleak future facing the black rhino so long as the demand for his precious horn remains strong. As a wildlife departure , “Last Charge of the Rhino” makes for grim viewing, made grimmer by a slow pace and repetitive narration.

Abc's World of Discovery the Last Charge of the Rhino

Production: ABC's World of Discovery THE LAST CHARGE OF THE RHINO (Thurs. (27), 8-9 p.m., ABC)

Crew: Camera, Franz J. Camenzind, Howard Wexler, Reuben Aaronson; editors, Rick Blue, Scott Eilers, Kaja Fehr; production supervisor, William Larkin; post-production supervisor, James McQuillan; scientific consultants, Dr. Steve Osofsky, Dr. Joel Berger; music, Stacy Widelitz; theme, Lee Holdridge.

With: Host: James Brolin. 'The Last Charge of the Rhino" succeeds in transforming viewer perceptions of the fierce-looking but good-natured behemoths of the African wild, but has trouble deciding if it wants to be a profile of the animal or an indictment of the flourishing black-market horn trade fueling its rapid extinction. Ultimately, the hour falls short on both counts.

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