Land Rover’s Chrome Rhino to the aid of Africa’s endangered species

A chrome coloured Rhinoceros with a red horn was seen recently making its way through the streets of London, past some of the city’s iconic landmarks, and eventually coming to rest at Trafalgar Square. This unique 1.2m-long rhino sculpture was towed on its journey by a Land Rover Discovery. The gesture was in support of the ‘Tusk Rhino Trail’ which aids conservation projects for the endangered species of Africa. The initiative involves 21 sculptures donated and decorated by leading figures from the worlds of art and design which are installed at prominent locations across the capital.

In addition to “protecting African Elephants, Rhinos and Lions, Tusk’s projects are playing a critical role in the survival of Cheetahs, Chimpanzees, Eastern Lowlands and Mountain Gorillas, Painted Dogs, Grevy’s Zebras, Giant Sables, Cape Vultures, Crowned Sifakas, Hawksbill Turtles, and many more,” according to Tusk’s website. “We provide greater protection for more than 40 threatened species, many of which are flagship species that we promote to help secure the landscapes in which they are found. In doing so, we also protect other wildlife as an important asset for local communities who could continue to benefit from their presence for future generations.

The Rhino, along with the elephant and the lion, has become an emblem of the challenges facing the conservation community in Africa. Savetherhino.org states: “South Africa has by far the largest population of rhinos in the world and is an incredibly important country for rhino conservation. From 2007-2014, the country experienced an exponential rise in rhino poaching – a growth of over 9,000%. Most illegal activities occur in Kruger National Park.

The current poaching crisis actually began in Zimbabwe, where the difficult socio-economic and political climate facilitated rhino poaching. Once the easy pickings were taken in Zimbabwe, poaching gangs turned their attention to neighbouring South Africa, which in turn saw huge increases in poaching from 2009-2014. Around 2013, the South African crisis spread to other countries in Africa.”

“First Kenya was hit hard: its worst year for poaching was in 2013 when 59 animals were killed (more than 5% of the national population). In 2015, both Zimbabwe and Namibia suffered losses: Namibia lost 80 rhinos to poaching, up from 25 in 2014 and just two in 2012, while in Zimbabwe at least 50 rhinos were poached in 2015, more than double the previous year. For Africa as a whole, the total number of rhinos poached during 2015 was the highest it had been in two decades.

There is, however, a silver lining in the fight against poaching. “In January 2018, …the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, released the 2017 poaching numbers from across South Africa. 1,028 rhinos were poached in 2017, a slight decline (26) from the 1,054 animals killed in 2016.” The peak was in 2014 when 1,215 Rhinos were poached. “Although it is encouraging that poaching levels are not escalating, losses are still extremely high, the outlook for rhino population growth severely impacted, and poachers are proving adept at changing their target sites and trafficking strategies.

There is no doubt that poaching, habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict are having a devastating impact on Africa’s wildlife. For almost 30 years, Tusk has supported forward-thinking and successful conservation intervention in Africa. “We believe local people and organisations are best positioned to address these threats, but are often under-resourced and lack the recognition they deserve. Through our partnerships, we continue to witness very significant progress, providing greater protection for over 10 million acres of land and more than 40 different threatened species, while benefitting more than 1,000,000 people,” reads a statement by Tusk.

The gleaming Land Rover rhino model, embellished by Land Rover’s Chief Design Officer Gerry McGovern, is Land Rover’s latest collaboration in a 15-year relationship with Tusk.

I wanted to celebrate the magnificence of this unique creature, so my rhino is covered in a chrome finish. The idea being that because of the highly reflective nature of chrome it would be seen from a long distance, consequently creating awareness of the plight of this animal in Africa. The red painted horn signifies the absurdity of this beautiful animal being hunted for such a small part of its overall being.” – Gerry McGovern, Chief Design Officer, Land Rover

The design of the Land Rover rhino uses specialist paint techniques from Land Rover’s state-of-the-art manufacturing process to achieve a highly durable liquid metal finish. Traditionally chrome has been used on vehicles to communicate prestige. Land Rover has developed an innovative and sustainable process to create a modern interpretation of chrome using a paint coating called spray chrome.

Inspired by the dye treatments conservationists use to protect rhinos from ivory traders, the horn of the Land Rover sculpture has been painted red, highlighting the plight of this endangered creature. White ivory has enormous value to poachers, and one solution is to inject rhino horns with a dye, making them less appealing to hunters.

Chris Thorp, Responsible Business Director, Jaguar Land Rover, said: “At Jaguar Land Rover, we are committed to working on projects that not only demonstrate the talent of our designers but also highlight the vital work carried out by charities like Tusk. In our long-standing partnership, we are continuing to enable Tusk to reach remote territories using Land Rover’s all-terrain capability, making it the perfect fit for conservation work all around the world.

The London-based art installation was towed into place using a Land Rover Discovery SUV and is designed to raise awareness about the endangered rhinos, culminating in the celebration of World Rhino Day on 22 September. Each of the 21 rhinos will then be sold to raise funds for Tusk projects across Africa at an event hosted by leading auction house Christie’s on October 9, 2018.