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Cambridge youngster Frankie’s RhinosUp campaign honours last male northern white rhino, Sudan


By Mike Scialom


RhinosUp living flowerbed being planted at Coleridge recreation ground with from left Guy Belcher, Ros Aveling, Amy Morris-Drake, Shirlene Benstead and Frankie Benstead with Martin Aveling and pupils from St Johns College School. Picture: Keith Heppell
RhinosUp living flowerbed being planted at Coleridge recreation ground with from left Guy Belcher, Ros Aveling, Amy Morris-Drake, Shirlene Benstead and Frankie Benstead with Martin Aveling and pupils from St Johns College School. Picture: Keith Heppell

A flowering pictorial meadow has been planted for the campaign that’s all about hope.

A ceremony at Coleridge Recreation ground on Tuesday, March 20, saw the unveiling of the design for a rhino-shaped flowerbed, as part of the RhinosUp bid to save the northern white rhino from extinction.

The RhinosUp campaign was started by seven-year-old Frankie Benstead in a bid to save the last three northern white rhino from extinction. However, the day brought sad news: Sudan, the last male northern white rhino on earth, had died.

Speaking at the ceremony, Fauna & Flora International deputy chief executive Rosalind Aveling said: “Neither of the two females left are fertile so the next thing, to give the sub-species a chance to come back, is to harvest eggs from the two females and do an in vitro fertilisation with a northern white rhino. It could be Suni, who died in 2014, so we have northern white rhino sperm and eggs, and this can be implanted into a female southern white rhino.

“It would be a difficult thing to do and this would be a first for rhinos.”

RhinosUp living flowerbed being planted at Coleridge recreation ground with Frankie Benstead. Picture: Keith Heppell
RhinosUp living flowerbed being planted at Coleridge recreation ground with Frankie Benstead. Picture: Keith Heppell

Both Suni and Sudan lived – and died – at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. The Conservancy was visited in 2016 by Cambridge artist Martin Aveling, Rosalind’s son.

“That’s when we told Frankie about the Conservancy and the rhinos,” said Martin at Coleridge Recreation ground, “ and all this is the result.”

The idea of a flower bed for rhinos in the city was supported by the council.

“The flowering pictorial meadow was part of a site-wide management plan,” said Guy Belcher, biodiversity officer for Cambridge City Council. “We asked for ideas and this was one of those proposed. Frankie came to us and we agreed the location. Frankie and his dad did the design, they came along and the city operatives marked it out.

“We’re going for the naturalistic look. It’s more a meadow than a flower bed, though you don’t have grass in them like a standard meadow, it’s just flowers.

“Nature parks are better for wildlife.”

A mix of native and non-native seeds were planted. The mix means that the flowering season is ongoing from May until first frost in November. Visitors will be able to walk around and through the design all year round.

“It’s particularly poignant, as Sudan has died, that we’ve done something to commemorate it,” said Frankie’s mum Shirline as Frankie planted seeds in the ground with his school friends. “Part of Frankie’s campaign is to raise money for IVF research so we still have hope and that’s what this campaign ia all about – hope.”

To close, Frankie read out a tribute he’d written. “We plant these seeds today in honour of Sudan – a rhino who was the last male standing of his species. A rhino who showed us what extinction looks like.”



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