In a cover quote on the book South African writer and environmentalist Don Pinnock describes Meditating with Rhinos as a “beautifully written, deliciously soulful read”.

Physically, the book takes you from Los Angeles, where the writer is in the throes of a marriage breakdown and writer’s strike, to deep in the bushveld near the Kruger National Park and back again, with some stops in Johannesburg and India.

Emotionally, the journey takes the reader in heart-rending detail through the trauma suffered by baby rhinos whose mothers have been slaughtered and then had their horns hacked off with the young animal looking on.

We get to meet two of the unsung wildlife heroes of South Africa – Petronel Nieuwoudt and her partner Chris de Bruno Austin, who founded and run a sanctuary for orphaned baby rhinos.

Their dedication to the cause is both touching and a leadership lesson – when faced with a crisis there is little time for niceties and emotions. The focus needs to be on the job at hand, and everyone in the team needs to be fully committed.

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The results speak for themselves

Since Care for Wild was founded in 2015, the organisation has rescued over 80 rhinos. The mission is to rehabilitate, rewild and release the orphans into protected and healthy ecosystems to ensure the survival of the species.

Multi-talented Kriel is helping to raise funds for the sanctuary through an international non-governmental organisation (NGO), Baby Rhino Rescue.

The establishment of the NGO is one of the many stops in the memoir of an emotionally tumultuous time in Kriel’s life.

On a lighter note, readers are taken on a night walk with a pangolin (and find that there is much more to these endangered animals than a chance sighting in the wild would indicate). There is, unfortunately, more chance of seeing pangolin scales in a Chinese or Vietnamese medicine shop, where the scales and body parts are used in traditional treatments than in the wild.

That is part of the roller-coaster emotional ride through the book – readers are frequently taken from a high to a low and back again.

There is light relief in the form of Emma, the house hippo – another of Petronel’s rescues.

And, of course, there are chapters on meditation – sometimes with rhinos and at other times not. Rhinos, it seems, benefit from the energy created and released through meditation as much as humans do.

But, if I tell you more, it would spoil the book.

Meditating with Rhinos is a thought-provoking read that speaks to the challenges most of us are facing during the Covid-19 pandemic by placing a different perspective on life and our connection with nature.

In short, it is “soulful” and needs to be read more than once for inspiration.

And you will almost certainly be motivated to help save a rhino or a pangolin.


  • Meditating with Rhinos
  • Helena Kriel
  • ISBN: 9781990973154
  • Epub ISBN: 9781990973161
  • Publisher: Melinda Ferguson Books
  • Price (incl. VAT): R235 – R260.00
  • Format: Soft cover, 248pp

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