hope rhino

Artist Matt Hill with "Hope", the rhinoceros. Photo: Simon Schluter

Matt Hill, who specialises in abstract garden sculptures and landscape lighting, has created her to raise funds for The Australian Rhino Project, which aims to establish a population of the nearly-extinct species in Australia.

The Mornington Peninsula artist said he came across the project 18 months ago while looking for some images online.

"I honestly knew nothing about the epidemic with rhino poaching," Mr Hill said.

"I contacted [the project] and said ... I'd like to get involved, I believe in the cause. I told them I wanted to donate a life-size rhino that they could auction and raise funds."

The black and white rhinoceros of Africa are in danger due to excessive poaching, driven by a burgeoning market for the mammals' horns in China and Vietnam.

Founded in 2013, The Australian Rhino Project aims to bring rhinos from South Africa to the Monarto Zoo, South Australia, as a safeguard against the possible extinction of the species in their natural habitat. The ultimate goal is to repatriate the rhinoceros when it is safe to do so in the future.

Sarah Dennis from the project said money from the sculpture would go towards building the quarantine facilities at the zoo.

"We have been working for the past few years through the process of the rhino relocation," Ms Dennis said.

"Our plan is to bring a population of 35 rhinos to Australia. The idea is the herd will breed."

She said the facility had been revegetated to make it suitable for the species.

"From a climatic perspective, South Australia is very similar climate to South Africa," Ms Dennis said.

Each rhino will cost $70,000 to bring to Australia.

"Matt has been so generous," Ms Dennis said.

"It's an amazing gift, his work is world acclaimed. It's really quite an honour for us to have such a beautiful work donated to us."

On Saturday, Hope will be on display at the Melbourne Cricket Club where every dollar from the tickets sold for the Big Bash League match between the Melbourne Stars and Hobart Hurricanes will go to the project.

Then she will go on a journey of about 800 kilometres to be the star attraction at the Zoos South Australia's Gala where money is being collected, including an online auction, for the Wild Africa precinct at the Rhino Management Centre at the Monarto Zoo.

So far an initial bid of $30,000 has already been made for Hope.

Zoos South Australia chief executive Elaine Bensted​ said the whole facility would cost $600,000, with the money being sourced from fundraising.

The Zoos South Australia Gala online auction, which is open to public, runs until February 9.

Hope will be at the MCG from 11.30 to 4pm on Saturday.



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