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White rhino in the room 0

MANDY MARTIN

There's a two-and-a-half-ton white rhino in the room. Tonight, he's the centre of attention at full-dress party in Toronto.

Bull the rhinoceros is being celebrated and introduced as one of only four or five iconic artifacts at Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum. He is the star of the new Shadd Gallery of biodiversity diorama.

Although Bull died after 38 years of life at the Metro Zoo, he will live on for thousands to study and appreciate thanks to the artistry or Len Murphy and staff of Pine Ridge Taxidermy on County Road 45 north of Baltimore.

"Thousands of people knew Bull (at the zoo). He was beloved," Murphy says.

As circumstances worked out, when Bull died just over a year ago, his body was donated to the ROM for display. After scientists from around the world garnered samples and specimens for their studies and records, Murphy was contacted to handle the taxidermy.

"He was shipped to us whole on a flatbed," Murphy says. "For the past 12 to 14 months he was here, but it was last December when we stopped everything else and worked on Bull alone to be ready in time.

"I first met Bull 16 years ago when I received a white rhino hide from Africa. I studied Bull for several weeks, took photos, measurements, watched him."

That research has given new life after death for Bull.

"When we got him, he was all rickety, but I told the mammalogy department I had all the information and research to make him look as he looked; a fine, healthy specimen 16 years ago. They were amazed we could do that."

For Murphy and his team -- wife Cindy, daughter Jammie, Andy Jaynes of Grafton, Eric Linton of Roseneath and Chris Armstrong of Hastings -- the

love of what they do comes before all else.

"When we work for a museum, we take a specific white rhino and all his uniqueness and create him specifically. It takes a lot of understanding. We work from the bones up."

In the taxidermy business for 31 years, Murphy has earned international acclaim, awards and accolades for his work. Now, he measures his satisfaction in capturing the unique attributes and individuality of each specimen."

Murphy has recaptured Bull's physical peak. Standing five foot tall at the shoulder, every unique wrinkle is there in the rhino's particular way of standing.

"One of the highest things on the agenda is to (have a specimen) go to the museum. It's interesting when you look at things from a scientific perspective," Murphy says.

"It's about working and doing something specific to the client and make someone happy."

Tonight, Murphy and his team of five will be donning the fancy duds to reunite with Bull at the wine and cheese party in his honour.

The new display opens to the public for the first time


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