Published: Sep 28, 2016Paignton Zoo's press officer, Phil Knowling, explains how the Great Big Rhino Trail is made up of many different colourful things, much like a mosaic.
My wife makes mosaics. She uses small coloured tiles, pieces of stained glass, ceramic beads and metal jewellery items. From this assortment of tones, textures and materials she creates beautiful, coherent images. My point being, the bigger picture can be made up of many different things.
This summer, The Great Big Rhino Project is Paignton Zoo’s bigger picture – and it’s made up of stories, photo opportunities, insights, surprises, video clips, quotes… These are our small coloured tiles, our pieces of stained glass, our ceramic beads and metal jewellery items. Some are happy, some are sad, but all are – we hope – interesting.
So far we have profiled artists, interviewed sponsors, told the stories behind rhino designs, celebrated creativity and decried vandalism. We’ve done stories about full-size painted rhinos, medium-size school and community rhinos and small, collectible ceramic rhinos. The Met Office and partners created a hi-tech rhino that can be controlled by Tweets; it’s in complete contrast to Blossom, a rhino delicately painted by botanical illustrator Kate Wilson with realistic and identifiable plants and animals. Publicity is a mosaic.
You can’t just bleat on about the desperate threats to wild rhinos for ten weeks – people will turn off. The trick is to find an easy way for people to engage with a difficult subject. Rhinos are killed for their horn, which is both worthless and worth its weight in gold. It’s a pointless, bloody waste. How do you make that fun?
Well, one way is to create a free public art trail of 40 life-size painted rhinos, put them out on the streets of Exeter and Torbay and invite people to find them. I grant you, it could be seen as an oddly superficial response to a grim and grave problem, but a free public art trail is easier for people to love than a rhino carcass with its face hacked off. And, by loving the trail of painted rhinos, we hope people will become more aware of the threats to real live wild rhinos and more sympathetic to their conservation.
Local businesses have responded in many ways. Some have stumped up hard-earned cash to become rhino sponsors. Others have done what they do best: for example, Bays Brewery have produced a Rhino Ale; the Cockington Chocolate Company has created a chocolate rhino that is being raffled to raise cash. Each to their own; play to your strengths. In that way a wide range of interesting, unusual, different and surprising stories can be used to build up the single bigger picture. Just like a mosaic…