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All Rhyme, No Reason: The not-quite extinct limericks t...

Maverick Life


All Rhyme, No Reason: The not-quite extinct limericks that underscore the decline of endangered species

Images: images. Composite image design: Maverick Life
By Ian Moll
28 Sep 2021 0

A poetry and prose collection by Ian Moll explores the decline of some of the world’s extinct and most endangered species at the hands of humanity.


Greedy explorers ‘discovered’ the East

Saw only fowls for their voyage-end feast

Rape the world their only thought

This poor bird counted for nought!

Do we go on till all species have ceased?



A zebra? A horse? A donkey? A mule?

This mammal they say defied every rule

Kwagga’s its name

Of wide Khoisan fame

Wiped out for meat — colonial fool!


Red Colobus Monkey

To be or not to be, was that Hamlet’s question?

Or a Colobus on the edge of extinction?

Fifty years past we thought it gone

2 0 1 5, we snapped just one

Enough to shuffle off this mortal destruction?



A tight, tight ball of scales on a bubble

Armour that puts this creature in trouble

Why hack off its skin?

It’s not medicine!

A body bloodied, left in the rubble


Black Rhino

A young rhino wobbled, feeling forlorn

He kind of wished he had never been born

He’d heard the approach

Of men on the poach

All he could think was the loss of a horn



“A curly horse upside down in the sea”

That was my daughter, enraptured, at three

Why did I tell her, right there and then

Her little horse a victim of Men?

I could have spared her such cruelty


West Coast Rock Lobster

These ‘kreef’ we haul from their sea, unjustly

Their bright red shells, so stunningly crusty

Their unfortunate fate

To end up on a plate

Just their heads in a bin going musty



The big fellas had a whale of a time

Till, from the West, came the worst kind of crime

A huge, dark, seething ship

Meat, bones, blubber its trip

Took them out, forever, much before prime


Mako Shark

Hardly macho, this shark, it hides in the deep

It had best keep still without one little peep

Many want its fin for a snack

They cut it off, throw the shark back

This is slaughter, cruel, immoral, even cheap


African penguin

Waddle waddle, bump bump, shuffle shuffle

This is a bird whose feathers don’t ruffle

But then catch them we can

They end up in a pan

To save this bird is surely a scuffle 


Cape vulture

Bald, dirty feathers, as ugly as sin

What a pickle our Cape Vulture is in

Please don’t think it kills cos it’s bad

It eats just dead bits to be had                            

So to kill it off is surely no win


Cape Wild Dog

Savage packs of dogs (worse than others, by far)

Bite slow holes as their dinner drops to the tar

But this is what nature’s about

We cannot but allow their rout

For to ignore this would be just about par


Roan antelope

Who’s heard of the Roan, one might enquire?

A sighting so rare kindles desire  

Unfortunate report:

We’ve killed it for sport

Sad fact is its chances are quite dire


Sable antelope                                       

Its horns are like crescents of steel and of light

The Sable is all beauty and four-legged might

Numbers though are just too thin

We’ve shot, poached, fenced it in

Now we worry about the beast in its plight! 



Tiger, tiger, burning bright —                                                                               

In a forest of some plight

When bulldozers and chainsaws outnumber the trees

Profits and losses bring our nature to its knees

Tiger will give up the fight


Giant Panda

In a world with more fluffy play pandas right now

Than the real live ones that our conservings allow

It is worth just the thought

That her safety’s not bought

But fought for, and shouted for, with constant know-how


Polar Bear

Priceless white hide, tendons, meat, fat and bones

Once trapped reasonably for Inuit homes

Our ice caps are melting

And killers not dwindling

Will this rare bear be among the unknowns?


Scarlet Macaw

Vibrant feathers that fluff out your big head

But please understand, the donor’s near dead

Fashion can be the death of a bird

Such human display surely absurd

Why do you do it, you pompous biped?         


Duck-billed platypus

From eggy or tummy? Duck or beaver or fish?

A platypus is conceptually quite squeamish

But because it don’t fit

Means not one little bit

That we do not protect it with every last wish


Darwin’s fox 

We named this fox for a true, smart primate

Who understood well that species to date

Adapt, and adapt, only so far

No creature survives this disaster

So, this fox, it seems, may not procreate



That this gentle, giant ape of the East

Should be thought of as an edible beast

Dismembered at table?

A thought unthinkable

Yet we treat it as a gorge ourselves feast



Gentle giants that must hide in order to last

In the deep green forests of our ancestral past

In movies and books, we fear them so

But truth be told, we’re the killers, no?

As trees die and get scarce, so they will too, and fast


Chimpanzee (pan troglodyte)

The chimpanzee and me, we see easily

Are as close as are cousins genetically

Not just an ape in a city

And a dwindling ape in a tree

But a mirror of the animal in you and in me



Only two kinds of ape dig sex for the sake

One’s the Bonobo, then a guess you’ll make

Our kin and kind we kill and eat — 

A ‘delicacy’ called ‘bushmeat’?

Oh what kind of lust we set out to slake!


Human Being

It slashes and burns, it hunts and spews smoke

As animal, it’s a bit of a joke

How to get in its head

That its species looks dead?

Best that it soon be extinct with a choke? DM/ ML

Ian Moll is a retired member of the School of Education at the University of the Witwatersrand. His PhD was in cognitive science and education from the University of Geneva. During his career, he has been a teacher, a trade unionist, a government bureaucrat, an NGO researcher, visiting professor at the Universities of Makarere and Witwatersrand, and lecturer in educational theory, psychology of education, and online instructional design. His latest publication is “The myth of the Fourth Industrial Revolution”, Theoria, 68 (167), 1-38.

Absa OBP

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