Rhino producing incredible paintings at St. Louis Zoo

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)– You’re looking at abstract art from an imposing figure, created by the artist called Ajabu.

“They get enrichment, just something to change up their day a little bit,” says Becky Heisler, senior zookeeper for the River’s Edge.   “Of course they get honeydew melon which is a favorite of Ajabu’s you could see he was so mellow he was falling asleep as he was eating it.”

Most artists create when the inspiration strikes.

But for this black rhino, this is a chance to chomp down some fruit.

“They’re grousers so they eat the leaves and branches out of the trees and they use that lip to pull the branches down,” says Stephanie Richmond, a River’s Edge Zookeeper.

Ajabu uses his prehensile lips to spread non-toxic paint onto canvases.

The zoo is selling the 8×10 works of art to raise rhino awareness for conservation projects.

“If he didn’t want to interact he could walk away and go eat hay or do something else,” says Richmond.  “You could see he was there the whole time.”

There are only five thousand black rhinoceros left in the world.

They’re critically endangered and illegally poached for their horns.

“It’s believed by a lot of Asian countries and cultures that by consuming horn they can cure diseases, everything from headaches and fevers to cancer,” says Richmond.  “It’s even considered a party drug in some countries.  But studies have shown that rhino horn is made up of Keratin.  That’s the same material that makes up your hair and fingernails.”

To help promote world rhino day, this Saturday the zoo will be selling a limited number of prints through their website for $50, where hopefully Ajabu’s acclaim as an artist won’t go to his horn, I mean, head.

“I know that some of the great apes here at the zoo have had gallery shows with great success,” says Heisler.

“People went bananas for it,” says Patrick Clark.

“Exactly,” laughs Heisler.

St. Louis Zoo Link:  www.stlzoo.org/rhino

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