January 27, 2006

“Darling” rare rhino makes California public debut

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A "darling girl" named Lali stuck
close to her mom but greeted other adults with curiosity during
her first public outing this week.

The two-month-old rare Indian rhinoceros made her debut at
San Diego's Wild Animal Park on Thursday after spending her
first eight weeks in a private enclosure to allow bonding time
with her first-time mother, Gari.

"She immediately was exploring meeting the other Indian
rhinos, but most of the time she kept close to mom," said park
spokeswoman Yadira Galindo.

Lali, which means "darling girl" in Hindi, is one of about
2,550 Indian rhinos in the world, 150 of which are in parks and
zoos. The species is considered critically endangered because
of human encroachment on its native habitats in India and Nepal
and because the rhinos have been poached for their horns, which
some believe have medicinal value.

Indian rhinos, which have one horn and large folds of skin
that look like armor, are also slow to multiply because of
their long, 16-month gestation period.

Lali, who was born December 3, weighs 180 pounds (82 kg)
but could grow to about 5,000 pounds (2,268 kg), Galindo said.
Lali is the 16th Indian rhino at the San Diego park.