“You helped get a bunch of donations and now look, there’s a rhino here!”

Saturday was a very special day at Niabi Zoo after years of planning. The zoo was able to bring a rhinoceros to its exotic family, and donors gathered to learn about and meet the rare animal.

There were hundreds of donors, including one 8-year-old boy who went out of his way to write a letter and then united his neighborhood to donate and help bring Kito to the Quad Cities.

Kito is a 2-year-old White Southern Rhino who met donors to the rhino campaign at a special event. it was a long campaign for the zoo, but the community raised more than $109,000 to make it a success.

“I donated money for the White Rhino for the Niabi Zoo by going to people’s houses and showing them the note and then they put money in the donation, and they sent it to the Niabi Zoo,” said 8-year-old Sean Gould, who says his love for rhinos was the driving force for him wanting to have a rhino at Niabi Zoo.

“Do you love rhinos?” Joel Vanderbush, the zoo’s curator of conservation and education, asked Sean.


“Do you think rhinos are so awesome that you wanted to have one right here in the Quad Cities?” Vanderbush asked.


As Sean was going around his neighborhood asking for donations so Kito could come to the Quad Cities, Niabi Zoo suddenly started to receive a lot of mystery donations of cash and checks for the rhino campaign.

“We at first couldn’t figure out where these checks were coming from until someone finally sent us this letter with the donations,” Vanderbush said. “We learned through this letter that Sean here drew this cool rhino and came up with this letter based on our campaign and then went around to his neighborhood.”

Sean says he is a little shy about asking people for things, but he felt confident trying to raise money for the rhino.

“I was a little nervous, but as I kept doing it, it became not that scary,” he told  Local 4 News.

When the zoo staff launched the rhino campaign, Vanderbush said, they didn’t know what to expect. But Quad Citizens like Sean are what helped make this campaign incredibly successful.

“What I think what is so exciting about this campaign… it was just average Quad Citizens who really believed in the campaign too and said, ‘Hey, let’s bring a rhino to the Quad Cities,’” Vanderbush said. “So we can learn more about this endangered species so we can help protect those rhinos. And that’s what Sean did and that’s what I call conservation action right there.”

As a reward for his efforts, Sean’s name is on a plaque that recognizes all other donors who made it a reality to have a rhinoceros at Niabi Zoo.