Rosie the Rhino Is Painting to Save Her Species: 'They're Very Abstract-Looking'

Rosie is a black rhino at the Columbus Zoo who paints with her upper lip to save her species from extinction.

The Columbus Zoo has a talented rhino on their hands and her artistic masterpieces are helping to protect her species from extinction.

While a black rhino’s median life span is 18 years, Rosie is a 27-year-old that came from the Atlanta Zoo, where she learned how to paint, in November 2009.

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“She’s pretty healthy right now,” Zookeeper Mindi Scott told

Scott has been at the zoo for more than eight years and works closely with the elephants and Rosie, their only rhino, in the Asia Quest section of the zoo. She hosted the park’s #TakeoverTuesday this week on social media where she introduced Rosie and her incredible abilities.

“I wanted to highlight some of the training that we do with our animals here in the pachyderm building,” she explained. “I also wanted to add a conservation message to educate people about the plight of black rhinos in the wild and how Rosie helps us raise money for conservation."

The paintings that Rosie creates are up for a raffle each summer at an annual Bowling for Rhinos national fundraising event organized by the the local Columbus American Association of Zoo Keepers Chapter, which helps raise money for rhino conservation.

“We typically do a painting whenever they’re needed for a fundraiser,” Scott said.

A video posted by Scott shows her rubbing paint on Rosie’s upper lip and holding the canvas while Rosie wiggles her lip and paints a work of art. Scott says the upper lip of the black rhino is pointed, yet flexible.

“She uses her upper lip, so they’re very abstract-looking,” she said. “It’s kind of like finger painting but for your lip.”

Scott uses two to three different colors for the paintings, cleaning her lip each time before switching colors.

“We put [the paint] on the point on her lip and watch her go,” she said. “It’s kind of a messy process, but it’s a lot of fun."

Scott says black rhinos are critically endangered, with only about 5,000 left in the world.

Rosie has been painting for Bowling for Rhinos for about six years, and each painting draws a large amount of raffle tickets for Rosie's paintings.

“That’s a pretty popular one that everyone wants to win,” she said.

Scott helps train Rosie and says Rosie like to learn new things. When painting, Rosie always has the option to walk away, but rarely declines.

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“My favorite part is the interaction with her... she really gets into it. She makes really great marks on the canvas,” she said.  

Scott says the zoo is very proud of Rosie and her contribution to saving her fellow rhinos.

“That’s kind of the icing on the cake for it," she said. "[Rosie] enjoys the painting... As a rhino and as an ambassador for rhinos everywhere, she’s helping raise money. Any amount that we can donate toward saving rhinos is an added bonus."

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