City News

Taking charge against poaching

Councillor Angela Vithoulkas with one of the city's new rhinos. Photo: Chris Peken

It’s the art installation that’s perplexing Sydney: what are the dozens of rhinos that have popped up on the city’s streets?

The fiberglass sculptures come courtesy of a Taronga and Western Plains Zoo project to promote community awareness about the plight of the rhinoceros.

“They’re being poached around the world, in all of their habitats, for their horn, which is then sold on the black market as various forms of herbal medicine,” said Nick Atchison, curator at Taronga Western Plains Zoo.

It is estimated that a thousand rhinos were poached last year in South Africa, with the black rhino at particular risk. There are only about 5000 left worldwide in the wild, although that number has increased from its all-time low. Mr Atchison says deaths by poaching will soon outnumber births, and hence threaten extintion.

The life-sized rhinos, 125 in all, will be on display until the end of April. They will then be auctioned to raise funds for Taronga’s rhino breeding and conservation programs.

Independent City of Sydney councillor Angela Vithoulkas won council support for the project and for the City to sponsor one rhino, now installed outside Town Hall.

Cr Vithoulkas said she was a great admirer of Taronga’s conservation work.

“Being a small business owner I know that you really have to make things work for tomorrow,” she said.

“Being sustainable and being green has always been a very high focus for us, no matter what the cost.”

Cr Vithoulkas encouraged Sydneysiders to educate themselves about the very real threat to the global rhinoceros population.

“Changing the life of the rhino isn’t something that will happen in five minutes, but bringing attention to the cause is what my job is all about,” she said.

At present there are 10 black rhinos and five white at the Western Plains Zoo. For more info see: taronga.org.au/wild-rhinos

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