THE Taronga Western Plains Zoo is using sculpture to tackle rhino poaching in South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The zoo’s Wild! Rhinos project created 125 rhino sculptures, which were then given unique paint jobs by professional artists as well as community groups and schools.
The life-sized statues, weighing more than 500 kilograms, will form a trail from Sydney to the central west before they go under the hammer at a Sydney auction in May.
The zoo hopes to raise $400,000.
“That will go to not only the conservation program with our rhinoceros population, our breeding and our research, but also two pre-eminent rhino organisations,” said the zoo’s general manger, Matt Fuller.
“Poaching is rising at such a rapid rate and we expect that’s in line with the rapid increase in the disposable income of people in countries such as China,” he said.
Mr Fuller said rhino horn - long used in some traditional Asian medicines - was increasingly seen as a status symbol.
At Dubbo statues will be installed at the Old Gaol, the rotunda in Victoria Park, the Western Plains Cultural Centre and at the zoo itself.
Mayor Matthew Dickerson said the project “works in beautifully” with the council’s plans for more public art around the city.
“They look absolutely fantastic,” he said.
“This is really a way for us to show the pride we have in the community.”
Children at Orana Heights, Dubbo Public, Dubbo South Public, and the Lincoln school contributed to the decorations of rhinos.
Meanwhile the zoo has been nominated in the “best tourist attraction” category at the Australian Tourism Awards, to be held in Sydney on Friday.
The zoo was chosen to represent NSW in the final after judges inspected the whole business in great detail.