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Human discourses, animal geographies: Imagining Umfolozi’s White Rhinos

S Brooks


The paper reviews recent literature in the field of animal geographies, a scholarship that reflects a developing interest in the way discursive orderings shape human attitudes to animals, as well as a concern with the spatial outcomes for animals of these discourses. Insights from this literature are employed to narrate the historical geography of Zululand’s white rhino population from the late nineteenth century to the 1970s. The paper traces Umfolozi rhinos’ changing location within human networks and corresponding spatial contexts. In the 1890s white rhinos were identified by the Zululand authorities as subjects worthy of special care; but in this colonial context their coding as “wild” animals was called into question by local Zulu people. Later, the spatial consequences of protectionist discourses about rhinos saw the removal of many of the latter from the carceral space of Zululand’s game reserves, to zoos and wildlife parks in other countries. This animal geography ultimately proved global in its reach.

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eISSN: 2159-9130
print ISSN: 1013-929X