Stanlee, a southern white rhino that has “lived” on campus since 2015, is a lesson in conservation.
Melissa Fuentes, curator of the Bob and Betsy Campbell Museum of Natural History, has meticulously restored the 13-foot-long, 800-pound specimen since it was carefully moved from the entryway in Long Hall to the lobby of the Science Outreach Center in Jordan Hall two summers ago.
Stanlee’s skin was gaping open; his leg was rotten. Using children’s modeling clay, hot glue, string, toothpicks and her fingernails, Fuentes made molds to provide texture to the skin she was recreating with epoxy. She rebuilt the leg with rebar.
“He is worth it to me,” Fuentes said. “He deserved to be preserved, conserved and repaired.”
Conservation is important as Stanlee’s subspecies is classified as “near threatened” with a declining population, estimated at fewer than 16,000, according to the International Rhino Foundation. There are only two known northern white rhinos in existence.
Stanlee is named after Stanlee Miller, former curator of the Museum of Natural History, who worked with Rick Blob, alumni professor in Clemson’s Department of Biological Sciences, to bring the rhino to Clemson — or more correctly, back to Clemson.
Stanlee’s Clemson story dates back to South Africa in the 1980s. The rhino had trouble getting along with other animals and peacefully co-existing with human settlements, even after attempts to relocate him. Conservation managers decided to have him put down. Big game hunter and Central, South Carolina, resident Monty Browning won a lottery to harvest the rhino.
“He was a victim of hormones,” Fuentes said.
Browning insisted the animal be used for educational purposes. He ended up at the Clemson Burger King, encased in glass near the restaurant’s trash cans, napkin holders, a display of obviously artificial flowers and posters advertising “The Simpsons” kids meals toys.
Eventually, Stanlee made his way to the Museum of York County in Rock Hill, South Carolina, where he was part of an African mammal collection. When the museum gave the rhino to Clemson, Blob and Miller picked up Stanlee in a U-Haul.
Now, Stanlee’s home is in a display case in Jordan Hall, where he is ready to spark conversations about conserving not only rhinos but other animal species.