One of the wonderous aspects of the Los Angeles Zoo that never faded in all the six years I worked and volunteered there was being able to marvel at any of many endangered species that were part of the zoo’s collection. Be it orangutan or foosa or snow leopard or Komodo dragon, I treasured the opportunities I had to observe them and to champion their survival, which is at best uncertain on this planet.
It’s easy to expect more from a zoo. People walk by the L.A. Zoo’s Wolf Woods exhibit and maybe make out the sleeping form of one of its occupants there in the overgrowth along the back and its only natural to move on disappointed that a gray wolf isn’t front and center, maybe eyeballing you like you’d make a nice mid-afternoon snack. Every day people throw all sorts of shit at the big male American alligator, discontent that he’s just being an alligator, motionless and energy conserving. They want him to entertain, to thrash and charge — and give them their money’s worth. It’s not enough for such idiots to be a few feet away from the nine-foot-long beast and to feast eyes on how rugged his exterior is or how massive his jaws are. It is enough for me.
The same goes with the Sumatran rhinoceros, named Andalas. Pictured above shortly after he was born in 2001 in
Cincinatti Cincinnati, Andalas came to live here at the L.A. Zoo a couple years later. And since then, most people shuffle by him doing not very much on exhibit perhaps momentarily taken with the redness of his hair, but either not knowing or caring that what they’re in the presence of is the first Sumatran rhino successfully born in captivity in 112 years or that there are estimates that peg the number of his kind in the wild at 300 or less. Three. Zero. Zero. That’s five minutes worth of seconds. That’s how many pennies you’d need for an MTA day pass. That’s the title of some movie on its way to a theater near you. That’s nothing.
And now Andalas is soon to be leaving Los Angeles for the land of his ancestors to see if he can’t help with plans to make the population of his species go up and not down. The only information I’ve found as to his exit is nothing specific, only that he’s leaving “this week” for Indonesia. On the off chance he’s still here maybe you can catch him before he goes. Who knows if you’ll ever get a chance to see one of the most endangered animals in the world ever again.