"It’s a spiritual, surreal experience, to have subdued, without stress, such a prehistoric animal," the 45-year-old "Kill Bill" actress told Town & Country, which documented the mission for its October issue. "To hear its deep breaths, to smell it, to touch its skin -- even a rhino has soft bits. To see how delicate they really are, how vulnerable. There is the obvious excitement of it all, but also a quietness in the midst of all the panic."
The mother rhino and her calf, like the rest of their dwindling species, are under serious threat from poachers. At least four of the animals are being killed every day, as the prestige of rhino horn has grown in some countries, where it is thought to not only cure cancer but enhance virility and is also used as a party drug, according to the magazine. An intact, well-shaped horn can fetch between $750,000 and $1 million on the black market, the magazine said.
Thurman, along with Town & Country’s travel editor, Klara Glowczewska, and a team of wildlife experts, rescued the two white rhinos, who were to be transported from South Africa’s Timbavati Game Reserve to Botswana, where there is less threat from poachers.
After helping get the two ready for transport, Thurman shared a brief moment alone with the mother.
"I was so moved," she told the magazine. "I was just breathing in the dearness of her."
When the group got word of a possible hijacking because of the animals' high value, Thurman was not deterred.
"I have lent myself to this. I’m here to help," she told the magazine.
In the end, the animals were transported without a hitch and Thurman came away with a sense of hope after the experience.
"I think so many of us feel that there is no point -- Who are we? What can we do?" she said. "There are so many dire situations, and it’s all out of our control. And there is sort of truth to that. But what I learned in Africa is that one must make an effort anyway. Because you just don’t know. Until the story is concluded, there is always hope."