To many a blank canvas and non-toxic paint have no correlation to a 3,500 pound Indian rhinoceros but at Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden they do! Mechi, a greater one-horned rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis), began her career as a painter shortly after she arrived at the zoo one year ago. Zookeepers introduced painting as a form of life enrichment to Mechi’s daily routine. Affectionately referred to as the Zoo’s Picasso in Training, it is obvious she enjoys her time painting by her quick response to do so.
These painting sessions utilize a target training technique. Paint is applied to the canvas, then, Mechi is told to target. She finds the target with her mouth. Utilizing her prehensile lip as a brush, she quickly moves paint around the canvas creating colorful designs. The zookeeper will reward her with fresh produce after each stroke until she has finished her painting. See Michi at work.
A limited supply of Mechi’s original artwork, prints and cards are available at the Zoo’s gift shop. Her paintings have been utilized for Zoo stationary, gifts to donors and raffled for Indian rhino conservation.
Mechi’s favorite treats are pumpkin and watermelon.
Mechi was wild caught in Nepal after her mother was poached. She was donated by a prince in the Mechi zone of Nepal to the National Zoo in Washington D.C. and then moved to the White Oaks Conservation Center in Yulee, Florida prior to being brought to Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden.
Recently, greater one-horned rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis) populations in India have begun to thrive due to strict protection and being upgraded to Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.TM The greater one-horned rhino’s future in the wild is not secure and is still in need of ongoing protection.