The first thing I saw leaving the airport in Dubbo, was a life-size sculpture of rhino-mama and rhino-baby. I was a bit surprised, but did not pay much attention as it was getting really late and I was tired after the long journey. But even being totally exhausted, I still remembered that I did not land in India, where the sight of rhinoceroses would be more appropriate. I was still in Australia, funny that.
Dubbo is a small country town in the middle of nowhere in rural New South Wales. Shops and restaurants close early, especially on weekends. I could not get myself dinner on Sunday night and had to eat a saved biscuit from the airline with tea.
The next day, on the way to work I noticed another sculpture of a rhino on the outskirts of town. That got my attention and I had almost two hours of driving to think about it. My curiosity was in overdrive and I decided to get to the bottom of this – there should be a reason to build all those sculptures in the middle of Australian plains, where rhinos do not live.
A bit of search through Internet revealed the solution to the mystery. In Dubbo there is Taronga Western Plains Zoo, which some time ago got one rhino as an exhibit. This large pretty girl started to feel restless and the management had a huge meeting, which involved domestic and international consultants. “Our rhino is bored, she feels lonely!”. World wide experts decided she needs a love in her life and arranged for a huge mass of meat in the form of boy rhino. After a few months of courtship, they decided to have a family. And they were blessed with a baby boy, who was just miserable 40 kg, comparing to 1400 kg of his parents weight (each). The breeding program was a huge success and there were quite a few more babies. Happy and proud residents started to plop rhino sculptures everywhere. Last year they had some sort of the festival, where about 140 life-size sculptures were positioned along the 400 km road from Sydney to Dubbo as art display. Later on, the majority of those sculptures were sold at an auction. (Can anybody explain to me the desire of having something like this in their private possession?).
Ok, so we have one rhino on the Mitchell Hwy. He is totally sunburned ( I suppose) and hence this bright red colour. Why he is wrapped in metal packaging strips and has a tiny footprint on his side – is beyond me.
Another one here is in total white and proudly stands on the main street in front of the large shopping centre.
Not far away from the “Dream” rhinoceros is another one. It’s probably much more precious rhino as its gold in colour (or, maybe, even made from real gold, don’t know). I imagine how during long hot nights these two discuss all the silly people, who gawk at them and take numerous photos ( me included).
To make a complete report, I had to find all of them. There were two more left according to the tourist guide. One of them was – quite understandable – in front of the Zoo.
And the last one was in front of the Information Centre. It was quite funny when I walked into the centre from the side entrance and asked the staff where are the sculptures. Both women looked at me suspiciously and asked if I have not noticed the huge bronze rhinos at the front. I turned all red and mumbled something about parking in the back and side door. I ran out and bumped into them. True, they are hard to miss!
My story about rhinos and Dubbo would not be complete if I did not mentioned the “Rhino awards”, which local industry has been presenting to the city’s most successful businesses in various categories for the last 20 years. Their logo, of course, features the Rhino. This logo symbolises the solid nature of the local community and their strength, as well as the fact that this town has the Taronga Western Plains Zoo – home to the infamous rhinoceros.
Rhinos – 27 (9 sculptures and 18 live) Rhinos – 7 (live, no sculptures).
Dubbo population – 32 000 Melbourne population – 4,48 million
Ratio: 1: 1185 Ratio : 1 : 635000