Rhino with a Mercedes Vienna Zoo Combines Wild With Waste

The Schönbrunn Zoo in Vienna has launched an art installation that puts its animals side-by-side with symbols of humanity's trashing of the environment -- including abandoned cars, rusty bathtubs and toxic waste.

Penguins waddle underneath a towering oil pump, rhinos curiously nudge a half-submerged old Mercedes, and brightly colored fish swim laps around a barrel of toxic waste.

These scenes of ecological destruction -- like stills from an environmentalist's nightmare -- are now on display at the Schönbrunn Zoo in Vienna as part of an art installation to raise awareness of the degradation of natural habitats around the world.

"Trouble in Paradise" -- which will run in the zoo until October -- is the work of German artists Christoph Steinbrener and Rainer Dempf, who have erected various artistic elements within the animals' enclosures. Among the other installations are a rusty bathtub in the crocodile pond and an abandoned chunk of railroad track in the bison pasture.

"We want to point out that nature is in serious trouble," the zoo's director Dagmar Schratter told the dpa news agency. When planning the installation, however, workers made sure that "our animals would not be harmed," the zoologist said.

The goal of the project is to provoke the public and change the "perception of the observers" when it comes to the problem of ecological destruction, installation artist Steinbrener said. The organizers also intend to publish a book about the display. "We want to show people what they lose when biodiversity declines," Schratter said.

Thus far, the installation seems to be creating the desired amount of fuss. Three regular zoo-goers have reportedly cancelled their yearly memberships in protest. "It is already clear that this project is provoking a reaction," Schratter said.

Schönbrunn Zoo was founded in 1752 and is well-known around the world for its long history and baroque architecture. It was recently declared Europe's best zoo by the Zoological Society of London.

jcm -- with wire reports


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