FREDERICKSBURG, Texas – Rhinory, a winery in Fredericksburg is also the home to Blake, a four-year-old Southern White rhinoceros. The concept came about after owner Craig Stevens witnessed a devastating loss.
“Six years ago, my wife and I went on safari to South Africa and two rhinos were poached while we were there,” Stevens said.
He said they knew they wanted to do something to help.
“We saw the military style surveillance and guards that were around and realized that poaching is not going to stop,” Stevens said. “And what can we do in the United States to help rhino conservation?”
It’s the question that sparked Rhinory. Stevens said he and his wife always wanted to open a winery, and having over 50 acres of land for the vineyard became a perfect place for a rhino preservation.
”We educate people about rhinos,” he said. “We give them a unique experience, not only being close to Blake, but we also do rhino experiences where they get to meet Blake. And combining that with a great wine experience.”
Guests can sip some of Rhinory’s award winning wine from the tasting room or nearby picnic tables and watch Blake live his best life.
Blake is part of the American Species Survival Plan. The SSP works to ensure the survival of threatened or endangered species in zoos, aquariums or specialized preserves like Rhinory.
“In the wild, these guys are not surviving past their twenties,” Christine Bobko, senior rhino keeper at Rhinory said.
Bobko has worked with rhinos for over thirty years -- at both the San Antonio Zoo and Denver Zoo. She said it’s a dream job to run her own rhino preservation program.
“Our guest encounters and all of our merchandise, all of that goes back to the International Rhino Foundation. And why that so important is IRF actually supports all five species of rhino.”
Blake is 4,000 pounds, and eats 100 pounds a day, but he still needs to gain 2,000 more pounds before he can have a female partner.
“He’s got a few years until he gets a girlfriend, but we can potentially bring some other rhino in and get a breeding program going,” Stevens said.
Until then he said they hope to bring in another male companion and build their rhino population.
“He’s just such a great rhino with a great personality. He loves to interact with people and he’s just kind of a ham. So he’s living a really good life.”