For Dr. Pat Condy, executive director of Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, this Thursday’s World Rhino Day has special meaning.

As a child growing up in what used to be Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe), Condy was used to having a menagerie of animals on the property his family shared with his uncle, the first full-time wildlife veterinarian in southern Africa.

His uncle had rescued a baby black rhino from a national park that was being flooded for a new dam project. The rhino’s mother had drowned. But the baby, named Rupert, came to live on the family property.

“He was a member of the family,” Condy recalled.

The kids rode Rupert, who was taught to pull a cart. He even accompanied them to the country school they attended, grazing and nibbling the roses while they studied. He watched TV and played with the family dogs.

Then Rupert got too big to be a house and yard rhino.

“He would walk through a door and take off the frame,” Condy recalled.

After that Rupert went to live in another national park.

He was one of the lucky rhinos. He had a long life.

But these days poachers are destroying thousands of rhinos for their horns, which some Asian cultures believe contain medicine that can cure everything from cancer to fever.

“It’s nonsense,” Condy said, noting that no scientific evidence has shown any medicinal or nutritional value from rhino horns.

Poaching has become such big business that gangs and syndicates have emerged. Poachers will use night-vision equipment and shoot rhinos from helicopters. They’ll swoop down after shooting rhino, hack off its horns and be back in the air in a minutes.

“It’s become very sophisticated,” Condy said.

Poaching is such a serious problem that the World Wildlife Fund, International Rhino Foundation and other international conservation organizations have banded together to stage the second annual World Rhino Dino this Thursday.

Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, one of the world’s most respected sanctuaries for endangered species, will celebrate World Rhino Day by hosting an art contest for local schoolchildren, and selling the art Thursday evening at Hollywood & Vine restaurant. Rhinos must be prominent parts of the pictures.

All proceeds from the art show will go to Fossil Rim’s rhino program. The event will run from 6 to 9 p.m.

Contest winners will be announced at 7:30 pm.

All parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends are encouraged to come and enjoy the art exhibit and purchase your child’s picture. A special menu will be provided by Hollywood and Vine, and $1.00 from each meal purchased will be donated the rhino program at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center.