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Simon Reeve at Taronga's Wild! Rhinos auction
Simon Reeve at Taronga's Wild! Rhinos auction

A herd of 45 brightly-coloured rhino sculptures went under the auctioneer’s hammer last night, raising more than $460,000 for Taronga Zoo’s rhino breeding and field conservation programs.

The charity auction at The Star was the much-anticipated finale of Taronga’s Wild! Rhinos project, which saw 125 rhino sculptures installed through the Sydney CBD and in regional centres on a trail to Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo.

Bidding was vigorous and competitive throughout, as bidders staked their claim for adult and calf-sized sculptures decorated and painted by leading Australian artists and designers, including Ken Done, Camilla Frank and Beastman. A huge thanks to auctioneer, Anne Philips, from Art Market Works who professionally guided people through the 45 lots to achieve this amazing result.

Taronga Director, Cameron Kerr said: “We were overwhelmed by the generosity of bidders and delighted to see our colourful rhino sculptures find new homes, following their hugely popular time on the streets, in the parks and public places of Sydney and regional NSW.”

“The Wild! Rhinos project has taken wildlife conservation beyond the physical boundaries of our zoos, raising much-needed awareness and funds to support our rhino breeding and field conservation programs,” said Cameron.

Guests at last night’s auction included NSW Environment Minister Rob Stokes, along with Sunrise presenters Simon Reeve and Andrew O’Keefe, participating artists and sponsors.

All the money raised from the auction will go towards Taronga’s world-leading Black Rhino breeding program and in-situ conservation projects.

“This unique conservation program has combined art and wildlife to engage people from all walks of life in the vital cause to help save rhinos from an epidemic of poaching.  If we don’t act, the number of rhinos poached will exceed the birth rate by 2016, tipping this amazing species towards extinction,” said Cameron.

Launched on the steps of the Sydney Opera House on 31 January, the Wild! Rhinos trail linked urban and regional NSW with the 125 rhinos spread from Sydney to the Blue Mountains, Bathurst, Orange, Cowra, Parkes and Dubbo.

Several regional centres have purchased their rhino sculptures for permanent display, ensuring Wild! Rhinos will remain a feature of the scenery in regional NSW.

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