The old girl had a good run and an impressive résumé.
On Monday, the L.A. Zoo announced the passing of its 48-year-old Indian rhinoceros, Randa, due to age-related illness.
“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, in a press statement. “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.”
Born Oct. 5, 1969 in Basel, Switzerland, Randa came to live at the L.A. Zoo on Nov. 22, 1974 by way of the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas. Staff noted her “great connection” with zookeepers, and said she spent her days “swimming in her pool and eating her favorite honeydew melon and apples.”
A 2009 biopsy revealed that Randa had squamous cell carcinoma under her horn. (This type of aggressive skin cancer can also affect humans.) At the time, a team inclusive of zoo veterinarians and renowned human and veterinary doctors decided to completely remove Randa’s horn and have her undergo radiation treatments. Then 40 years old and weighing in at two tons, she was a challenging patient. Partnering with surgeons, oncologists and radiation specialists from the UCLA Medical Center and Xoft, Inc., the L.A. Zoo was given extraordinary community support while Randa was in treatment. On Aug. 19, 2011, the zoo officially announced that its senior rhino was in complete remission.
From 2012 to 2015, Randa became the highlight of a behind-the-scenes “Indian Rhino Encounter” program, which gave guests the opportunity to get up close and personal with the female rhino, while also learning about the critically endangered species.
As her health began to decline, Randa retired from these special encounters in 2015. Arthritis and other age-related issues began to take their toll on the rhino, though her L.A. Zoo family continued to gain inspiration from Randa. As an ambassador animal, the sweet senior helped raise more than $376,000 via the American Association of Zoo Keepers’ (AAZK) annual Bowling for Rhinos fundraiser, which helps protect endangered rhinos in Africa and Asia.
Zoo staff made the tough decision to humanely euthanize Randa on Nov. 6 — loss of appetite, trouble moving and blood work indicative of kidney failure all contributed to her decline.
“Randa was the oldest Indian rhinoceros on record within zoos worldwide,” read the L.A. Zoo’s official statement. “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.”
Poaching (for horns) and habitat loss has left some species of rhino with as few as 75 animals remaining in the wild.