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Life-size model rhino statue repairs

In the summer of 2016, Plastic Surgeon got firmly behind Paignton Zoo’s Great Big Rhinos Project, which saw a concerted effort to raise money for rhino conservation.

The project consisted of 40 life-sized and individually painted rhino sculptures scattered throughout Devon and the English Riviera, forming a rhino trail, with members of the pubic encouraged to follow it and admire the sculptures on display.

Each rhino was individually painted by a local artist, as well as being individually sponsored by a local business or organisation. Plastic Surgeon sponsored ‘Hope the Rhino’, managing a Twitter account in Hope’s name to improve social engagement and awareness around the rhino trail.

Given the time and effort put into creating the rhinos, it was important that they were well maintained during the course of the trail, as public interaction with the sculptures was liable to cause wear and tear over time. Consequently, Plastic Surgeon formed its ‘rhino repair squad’, which saw a team of its Fine Finishers, headed up by Chris Garner, tasked with maintaining the sculptures throughout the summer trail.

The rhino repair squad was taking up the mantle of the gorilla repair squad, which carried out a similar role during the hugely successful Paignton Zoo Great Gorillas Project that occurred in 2013. The Great Gorillas Project, like the Great Big Rhinos Project, aimed to raise money for animal conservation.

During the Great Gorillas Project, the repair squad was only called upon for minimal repair work. The Great Big Rhinos Project, however, proved a much tougher challenge.

Within the first few days of the rhinos being in situ on the trail, the repair squad was called into action to repair ‘RhinoBeta3107’, a sculpture outside Exeter train station, which had its ear broken off in an act of vandalism. Chris Garner sprang into action, expertly repairing the rhino using Plastic Surgeon’s advanced surface repair techniques and making good on the damage, allowing the sculpture to swiftly return to the trail with the ear reattached.

The following week a second rhino was vandalised, this time outside Exeter’s Guildhall Shopping Centre, in a suspected brick attack. The rhino, ‘Glimpses’, was again swiftly repaired by the squad, taking just four hours to put right despite extensive damage to its forehead.

It wasn’t long before the rhino repair squad was again called into action to repair the damaged back of a sculpture on Torquay’s seafront. Despite a notice asking them not to do so, over enthusiastic members of the public kept sitting on the back of ‘Suns Out! Horns Out!’ for photo opportunities which, after repeated incidents, began to crumple under the strain. Chris Garner stepped into the breach again and repaired over 40 small cracks that had appeared in its back. As part of this, he even had to repaint parts of the original artist’s design by hand. The repair work saw the sculpture quickly returned to its former glory and back on the seafront for the public to enjoy.

‘RhinoBeta3107’ wasn’t as fortunate as ‘Suns Out! Horns Out!’, as within days of being repaired, the ear was torn off again in another act of vandalism. This time, the sculpture was removed from the trail for good to be repaired in time for the trail’s closing auction.

At the closing of the trail and as part of its fundraising efforts, Paignton Zoo arranged an auction for local people and businesses to attend, which would see them make bids to keep the sculptures permanently – with the money raised going towards rhino conservation. The fact that the rhinos were being auctioned off made Plastic Surgeon’s repair work all the more essential, as people would be reluctant to bid for damaged sculptures and as a consequence, less funds would be raised.

Chris Garner and the rhino repair squad did an excellent job though, repairing 17 rhinos during the course of the trail, and ensuring that the sculptures were fit for auction. As evidence of the repair work’s resounding success, the auction raised a staggering £123,000.

Phil Knowling, Press Officer at Paignton Zoo commented: “Plastic Surgeon was right behind the Great Big Rhino Project from the start – and the Rhino Repair Squad was absolutely vital during the summer. Chris Garner is a hero! Our charity’s conservation work with rhinos and other species relies on teamwork and partnership. It’s been a real joy to work with Plastic Surgeon.”

Plastic Surgeon, in a quirk of fate, ended up successfully bidding and securing the damaged RhinoBeta3107, which it now has on display at the head office in Bovey Tracey as a lasting testament to a summer of hard work.This summer, Plastic Surgeon got firmly behind Paignton Zoo’s Great Big Rhinos Project, which saw a concerted effort to raise money for rhino conservation.

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