Oldest Indian Rhinoceros Within Zoos Worldwide Passes Away at the L.A. Zoo at Age 48

CONTACT: L.A. Zoo Press

November 6, 2017

Cancer Survivor, Randa the Rhino, Served as an Ambassador Animal for Her Species and Helped to Raise over $376,000 for Rhinos in the Wild


Indian Rhino Randa in Pool, Photo by Jamie Pham

The L.A. Zoo is deeply saddened to announce the passing of 48-year-old female Indian rhinoceros, Randa, this morning due to age-related illnesses. The Zoo made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize Randa after she began showing signs of declining health, including loss of appetite, difficulty moving, and blood work indicating kidney failure. Randa was the oldest Indian rhinoceros on record within zoos worldwide, and she spent her life raising awareness of the plight of rhino species in the wild and creating unique and engaging experiences between herself and zoo guests.

“Randa has been iconic throughout L.A. Zoo’s history, and so many visitors have been touched by an encounter with her or her fantastic story,” said John Lewis, Zoo Director at the Los Angeles Zoo. “It is a true testament of the work zoos do and the expertise of our staff that she was able to beat cancer and live a full life here at the Zoo. She was a fighter and will be missed by all.”

Randa was born on Oct. 5, 1969 in Basel, Switzerland and arrived at the L.A. Zoo on Nov. 22, 1974 from the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas. She had a great connection with her animal keepers, and she spent her days swimming in her pool and eating her favorite honeydew melon and apples. In 2009, a biopsy revealed that Randa had squamous cell carcinoma, a type of aggressive skin cancer that also occurs in humans. The cancer was found under her horn, and a team comprised of Zoo veterinarians and renowned human and veterinary doctors made the decision to remove the entire horn and have Randa undergo radiation treatments. Treating Randa’s cancer was no easy feat due to her advanced age, 40 years old at the time of diagnosis, and her weight of two tons. The Zoo received tremendous community support and partnered with surgeons, oncologists, and radiation specialists from the UCLA Medical Center and Xoft, Inc. Randa was officially declared to be in complete remission on Aug. 19, 2011.

Randa went on to be the highlight of a weekend and holiday behind-the-scenes Indian Rhino Encounter from 2012 to 2015, allowing guests the chance to get up close with the female rhino and learn more about these critically-endangered animals in the wild. Randa retired from the special encounters in 2015 as her health began declining due to arthritis and other age-related issues. The Zoo family continued to gain inspiration from Randa as an ambassador animal by raising over $376,000 through the American Association of Zoo Keepers’ (AAZK) annual Bowling for Rhinos fundraiser. For the last nine years, the L.A. Zoo chapter of AAZK would donate the proceeds of their fundraising efforts to protect endangered rhinos in Africa and Asia.

Due to poaching and habitat loss, some species of rhino have as few as 75 animals left in the wild. Rhinos are an umbrella species, and helping them, as a result, also helps other animals and plants that share their ecosystem. Poaching for their horn, which contains a protein called keratin, has become a severe issue due to some Asian cultures valuing the horn as a symbol for status and wealth and its use in traditional medicine – of which there are no proven benefits.

The Indian rhinoceros’ scientific name, Rhinoceros unicornis, means “one horn” in Latin. Because of its singular horn, the Indian rhino has been associated with the unicorns of legend. These massive mammals inhabit swamp-like or grassland environments primarily in northern India and Nepal. They are mostly covered in a thick, silver-brown skin which forms huge folds all over its body that resemble a formidable coat of natural armor. The Indian rhino’s single horn can reach a length of between 12 and 15 inches and is made of keratin, the same substance as human fingernails. Just as humans clip their fingernails, rhinos rub their horns to shorten their length. Males on average are 6 feet high at the shoulder and about 14 feet long. They weigh about 3,500 pounds. Indian rhinos have sharp hearing and a keen sense of smell. They may find one another by following the trail of scent each enormous animal leaves behind it on the landscape. Despite their bulk, they are nimble and can jump or change direction quickly. Indian rhinos browse and graze mostly on various types of grasses, leaves, and aquatic plants and fruits.

About the Los Angeles Zoo
Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the landmark Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, drawing nearly 1.8 million visitors each year, is home to a diverse collection of 1,100 animals representing 250 different species, many of which are rare or endangered. Its lush grounds on 113 acres feature a botanical collection comprising over 800 different plant species with approximately 7,000 individual plants. The Zoo is located in Griffith Park at the junction of the Ventura (134) and Golden State (5) freeways. Admission is $21 for adults and $16 for children ages 2 to 12. The Zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For information, call (323) 644-4200 or visit the L.A. Zoo Web site at www.lazoo.org.