News Release

November 15, 2011


Contact: Sondra Katzen
Public Relations

Note: To view the Emmy Award-winning rhino transport video, please visit

Brookfield Zoo’s Operation Rhino Video Wins Chicago Emmy
Video of Special Rhino “Transport” Tells Heartfelt Story

     Brookfield, Ill.— An exclusive video that captured a special rhino transport at Brookfield Zoo has won an Emmy. The Chicago Zoological Society’s Operation Rhino short film received the award on Sunday, November 6, from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences at its 53rd annual Midwest/Chicago Emmy Awards. Operation Rhino tells the story of a Brookfield Zoo rhino that finds a new home at Misericordia/Heart of Mercy, which provides services for children and adults with developmental disabilities.

Chicago Zoological Society rhino keepers and veterinary staff orchestrated the rhino transport. Although these endangered pachyderms can weigh up to 3,000 pounds, the relocated rhino weighed only 300 pounds. This special rhino was, in fact, not real but rather a ceramic rhinoceros that once “lived” in an administrative office at the zoo. In recent years, the ceramic rhino was kept in storage, but it re-emerged in 2011 and was transported to Misericordia for use in the organization's art therapy program for adults with developmental disabilities.

“We thank the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for recognizing our work,” said Matthew Mayer, vice president of public affairs for the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo. “This video provides a compelling and insightful look at how Misericordia’s art therapy and expressive communications programs are enriching the lives of adults with developmental disabilities while inspiring them to learn more about wildlife and conservation.”
Misericordia art therapist Kurt Fondriest, who was featured in Operation Rhino, noted, “Through Operation Rhino, Misericordia’s residents used the expressive arts as a way to learn about the challenges that rhinos face in the wild and how people can take conservation action to support them.”
For more than 20 years, the ceramic rhino called Brookfield Zoo home. Today, it now resides at Misericordia’s Creative Communications Studio. As part of the project, Misericordia’s resident artists researched rhinos and asked Brookfield Zoo’s rhino keepers questions before designing and painting a mural of the Serengeti on the statue. On a special zoo visit, the artists then got a special encounter with one of the zoo’s resident rhinos, getting to touch and feed it.

“It was moving to watch Misericordia’s residents interact with Brookfield Zoo’s rhinos. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and something we’ll never forget,” Fondreist said.

Brookfield Zoo was the first zoo in North America to successfully breed a black rhinoceros. The zoo is a part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP) for black rhinos. SSPs are cooperative breeding, conservation, and education programs among North American zoos. All five species of rhinos are endangered animals.

“If the conservation movement is going to be successful, it must be inclusive," Mayer said, adding that “zoo animals help people from all communities connect with wildlife, and the experience encourages them to care about animals and play an active role in conservation.”

The mission of Misericordia/Heart of Mercy is to support individuals with developmental disabilities in maximizing their level of independence and self-determination within an environment that fosters spirituality, dignity, respect, and enhancement of quality of life. Misericordia promotes development of natural family and community support, community awareness, education, and advocacy.

The Chicago Zoological Society’s mission is to inspire conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature. Brookfield Zoo is known throughout the world for its innovative, naturalistic, multispecies exhibits and for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation.

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