Sam Anderson, author of The New York Times Magazine story, “The Last Two Northern White Rhinos On Earth”

by | Jan 13, 2021

Sam Anderson—a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine, whose latest piece (the cover story) is “The Last Two Northern White Rhinos On Earth,” an account of the week Anderson spent in Kenya with the only two Northern white rhinos still alive: Najin, and her daughter, Fatu, though the story is about much more than that—discusses the genesis of the article, deciding to write a profile of sorts on the two remaining animals of a species nearing extinction. In explaining that decision, Anderson addresses why he and others find rhinos so compelling—why there tends to be major articles like his, documentary films, and other coverage of this animal’s plight, while other critters are similarly moving toward extinction, like the vaquita, a small porpoise that Anderson mentions in his story, but rarely draws media attention. Anderson recounts the first day meeting Najin and Fatu—referred to, universally, as “the girls”—noting he was instantly smitten, spending as much time with them as possible, every day. He also recalls the thrill of, at the invitation of one of the rhinos’ caretakers, JoJo, helping give Najin her daily “scratches.” Anderson describes how, given the powerful, profound experience he had over the course of that week in Kenya, he contended with fear that he might struggle to fully capture the experience in his piece; he worked on the story for a year, he says. Probably well worth it: Of the nearly 400 readers who commented online about the article before they turned off comments, a huge number mentioned being moved to tears, all raved about the piece (“This story should be nominated for a Pulitzer,” enthused one), and—having been posted online on Jan. 6, the day of the insurrection—the story, the comments also make clear, functioned as a tonic for crushed souls and broken hearts in the wake of that day’s horrific events. (It should be said that Jack Davison’s assemblage of striking black and white photos represented no less a factor in the story’s potent impact.) Anderson also talks about the way reporting and writing the story changed him. Photo credits–top: Sam Anderson; rhinos napping: Joseph Wachira; black and white: Jack Davison for The New York Times  (,,


ALSO: I spoke briefly with H. H. German, the founder of Sigma Comics, and the writer-creator of “Calico,” what may be the first comic-book hero dedicated to fighting animal abuse. German explains the impetus for creating “Calico” and the time he spent devising the character and story lines. “Here Comes Calico,” the first of what German expects will be an eight-issue series, was recently published, and let’s just say you don’t want to mistreat animals on Calico’s watch. (,


COMEDY CORNER:  Dave Attell’s “Pets”  (

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: Adrian Belew’s “The Lone Rhinoceros”



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