January 27, 2006

‘Darling’ Rare Rhino Makes California Public Debut

LOS ANGELES -- 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.