The Rhinos are here. Join the herd.

| February 28, 2014

Art can spark the imagination and at the same time create awareness for important conservation causes. Madeline Smitham from the Taronga Conservation Society Australia explains how their biggest public art exhibition raises vital funding for a Black Rhino breeding program.

A huge herd of 125 Wild! Rhinos have been sighted through streets, parks and public spaces from Sydney to Dubbo and surrounding areas generating a unique combination of creativity, community and conservation to create a spectacular world class sculpture trail to help raise awareness of the critical plight facing rhinos through poaching and habitat loss.

Across the globe four out of the world’s five rhino species are in critical danger. All five species are under threat from habitat destruction or illegal poaching and there’s now the very real chance we could lose them forever.

All too often the plight of critically endangered species are “are out of sight, out of mind” for the public, so we devised a plan to start a public conversation about the very real dangers and threats that rhinos face.

This conversation started once the sculpture trail of life size rhinos popped up in many and varied locations overnight!

Last year we put a call out to artists in the community both known and undiscovered to be part of Taronga’s biggest public art exhibition to help raise awareness and vital funding for Taronga’s world leading Black Rhino breeding program and in-situ conservation projects.

Thus far Taronga Conservation Society has bred more rhinos outside Africa than any other organisation or zoo worldwide, so Taronga is a major part of the rhino conservation solution.

Artists and designers such as Ken Done, Camilla Franks, Archibald Prize winner Kevin Connor, Peter Kingston and many more offered their time and expertise to create the stunning rhinos. The artists drew inspiration from hundreds of styles and influences. Many such as Jane Gillings and Gary Deirmendjian chose to depict the harmful impact humans have on the environment whereas Shanel Tang and Ambrose Rehorek under the name of Creature Creature celebrated the connection between living things and the natural world. Jane Tuinstra combined the strength of the rhino and technology for her piece ElectroRhino. Parkes City Council commissioned an Elvis rhino from Benitta Harding  to celebrate their annual Elvis festival. Full details of all the rhinos and their artists can be found here.

The final designs have been spread out across locations ranging from Martin Place in Sydney’s CBD to Parkes, Orange, Cowra, Blue Mountains and Taronga Western Plains Zoo. We invite you to join the charge and follow the Wild! Rhino trail by downloading the Wild Rhinos App.

As part of the Wild! Rhinos education program, 55 schools from NSW were also invited to paint 64 rhino calves. This ensures that the plight of the population has been transferred into the next generation of budding minds and artists. Thus far participating schools have helped raise more than $5,500 for Taronga’s rhino program.

The artist interpretations are a fascinating way to draw people in and the incongruity seeing a rhino standing in park, nestled between skyscrapers or almost hidden within a bustling crowd brings the issue of rhino conservation to the now.

The Wild! Rhinos will be at their locations from February – April 2014. The hope is that the colourfully painted rhinos will not only draw the attention of commuters and local communities with their unique colouring, but on 14 May the artworks will be auctioned at The Star, Pyrmont to hopefully raise over $400,000 for Taronga’s rhino conservation programs.