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$17M Rhino Savanna Opens in Palm Desert

PALM DESERT, Calif. – The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens officially opened its Rhino Savanna on Friday.

The 4-acre, $17 million habitat will house 12 African species, including two black rhinos for which the habitat is named. The rhinos, Jaali and Nia, will be the zoo’s largest animals, weighing around 3,000 pounds and standing about 5.5 feet tall at their shoulders once they reach maturity, according to officials.

black rhinoceros
Diceros bicornis michaeli

Rhino Savanna

about the habitat

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens has officially opened its new four-acre Rhino Savanna Friday, November 12th.

The new four-acre Rhino Savanna is located just inside the Zoo’s main entrance. The sprawling multi-species and state-of-the-art habitat is home to 12 African species. Among those include the Zoo’s largest animals, two black rhinos, Nia (pronounced Ny-a) and Jaali (pronounced Jolly). Expansive look-out points and picturesque views await guests at Rhino Savanna where they also will encounter waterbuck, springbok, two species of pelicans and a variety of other birds, plus fascinating subterranean animals such as the naked mole-rat, among others.

naked mole rat
Heterocephalus glaber

Black rhinos are listed as critically endangered. Zoo officials hope to help increase the population of the species right here at home.

“This opening also signifies a deep commitment to The Living Desert’s conservation initiatives to protect black rhinos in their native range.” said Allen Monroe, president and CEO of the Living Desert

“We have been working for the last two to three years to do the design work, the construction and now today we are able to welcome the public in here and see these amazing animals on our rhino savannah to meet Jaali and Nia.”

Black rhinos are currently listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature with only about 5,600 reported in Africa. According to officials, their main threat are humans due to rampant poaching for their horns.


Three-year-old Nia, and Jalli, who turns 2 on Christmas Eve, were matched as breeding partners through the Species Survival Plan and will each have their own distinct space in the habitat due to the species’ typically solitary nature.

Black rhinos are not black at all, but rather dark gray. They are constantly coated in a mud coat to help keep them cool and prevent insect bites.

The Living Desert is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. All general admission tickets must be purchased in advance. Additional formation is available at www.livingdesert.org.

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Living Desert ZooPalm Desert

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