Today I met up with Head Rhino Keeper, Paul at Port Lympne, he was going to introduce me to one of the Rhinos.
We went to meet RUKWA, who is the grand old age of 40 years and one of the first breeding females that have been based at PL. Originally she was wild and was introduced to Howletts following capture. (Howletts is PL's counter part Zoo near Canterbury).
Rukwa is now retired from the breeding programme (there are 16 Rhino's in the programme) and has daily talks based around her...and carrots!
Her offspring have been successfully reintroduced into the wild, so she is a very important part of preventing the decline of the Black Rhino in their native habitat, as they have been poached to the brink of extinction for their horns.
The horn is made form keratin (Like fingernails) and has a wood like quality to it... strangely this is used by natives as an aphrodisiac and is available on the black market ... you would get the same by chewing your own nails!...naivety and lack of education can be so destructive!
I feel Rukwa should be the main subject for the sculpture I aim to create, as she has been an integral part of PL's conservation of this beautiful creature.
Paul enabled me to gain access to the area next to Rukwa's pen and called her over for a fuss. She has a surprisingly soft muzzle, with an elongated lip, that is used in a similar fashion to a trunk. Her skin was covered in mud, which keeps her from drying out, but even on her hide she has malleable flesh. Due to Rukwa being an older lady, she has a slightly enhanced slump in her form and places her feet down more gracefully... this will be beneficial to the shaping of the said sculpture; it will accentuate the form.
The shed I will be working in is being prepared, as the door needs fixing, but once this is done i will start to draw out the Rhino in steel and start creating. Can't wait...