Eugene The Olive Rhino
Eugene became our mascot quite by accident during the 2017 Christmas Market, the first season we introduced Little Ndaba toys to our customers. Anybody who is familiar with MisHMasH, knows our passion is all about elephants, so the fact that we chose a rhino, or perhaps a rhino chose us, came as a surprise to many, myself included.
What we learned in the first weeks of the market that year, is that like us, everyone loves elephants; we relate to them from a very young age through books, toys and movies. Elephants are seen as beautiful, kind, majestic, gentle and wise and we instinctively want to protect them. For rhinos however, this connection is not as strong; there are fewer stories, books and movies, and as such, we know less about them and relate to them less. Is it possible, that because of this, we are just slightly less invested? It is natural that we are more apt to protect a species we can relate to.
So, here we were with 12 adorable Little Ndaba snuggle rhinos and very few people were interested in them, yet the snuggle elephants, monkeys, hippos and lions were being very well received. One morning, in an effort to encourage customers to take another look at the adorable rhinos, I chose one of the 12 olive and cream coloured rhinos in the group and named him Eugene. Every day he posted on Instagram and Facebook and could be found out and about in the market either doing cross promotion with other booths or getting into mischief both outside and within our own booth, and people loved it. Suddenly we had followers on social media asking about Eugene, and customers interested in Rhinos because of him. Day by day, as we created more content for him, Eugene developed a personality, so when the day came that all the rhinos had found new homes, we couldn't part with Eugene as he had become family.
Eugene is a sweet and curious little rhino, but also rather demanding and quite cheeky. He is well traveled, having been to South Africa twice now, and has also accompanied me to elephant conservation and behaviour chats with local school children. One day soon he hopes his travels will take him back to his birth place in Zambia, where he can visit the amazing team at Little Ndaba who created him, and the elephant orphans his advocacy helps to protect.
Eugene is ever present at the Christmas market, and when not complying with the demands of his celebrity status on Instgram, can usually be found at the back of our booth near the cash drawer where he can boss us around. When he is with us, it opens up conversations not only about him, but about rhinos, elephants, conservation efforts, their future and how people can help.
There is no doubt in our minds, that Eugene and his stories have created much joy and laughter, but more importantly, the fact that he helps us spread a message of wildlife conservation and socially conscious consumerism is what makes him so very special.