When Mohan first came to Miami-Dade County’s sandy shores from his native India, Richard Nixon was president, four students had been shot to death by the National Guard at Kent State University, and the New York Knicks won their first and only basketball title.
Tevi hadn’t been here nearly that long. Born in the country of Malaya, she lived in Cincinnati for a decade before finally settling down in Miami-Dade two years ago.
On Monday, Mohan, a 44-year-old Indian Rhino, and Tevi, a 13-year-old Malayan tigress, both died at Zoo Miami — a rare double loss of two of the zoo’s largest and most high-profile mammals on the same day. Autopsies revealed Mohan died of old age. Tevi died after a months-long battle with liver failure.
“Two animals of that caliber dying on the same day, it’s extremely rare. I can’t remember it happening before,” said Zoo Miami Communications Director Ron Magill.
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Mohan was believed to be the oldest rhino in captivity in the world, Magill said.
The animal arrived at the Crandon Park Zoo in 1970, a gift from world traveler and philanthropist Ralph Scott. Nowadays zoos receive new animals mostly through trades with other zoos. Back then, obtaining wild animals worked a little differently. Magill said Scott was able to purchase the almost three-ton rhino from the country of Nepal. By 1981, when Zoo Miami opened its gates in South Miami-Dade, Mohan made the move.
Magill said Scott was able to obtain many animals for Zoo Miami, including Princess, the zoo’s first white tiger. A statue of her stands at the park today.
Magill recalled the intimacy of Crandon Park Zoo. Though the tiny cages would be “unacceptable” today, he has fond memories of hanging out with Mohan in his tiny cage, feeding him carrots.
As the rhino aged he became one of the zoo’s star attractions, with large donors allowed intimate, behind-the-scenes contact.
“There are probably thousands of people today who remember touching him, feeding him,” Magill said.
The zoo had big plans for Tevi.
Already 12, which is up there in tiger years, Tevi had recently been “accepted” by another tiger at the zoo, and zookeepers were hoping for little offspring.
But a few months ago Tevi became lethargic and doctors discovered a failing liver. There are only 600 Malayan tigers left in the world, and Magill isn’t certain when or how the zoo can find another. He said curators are talking to other zoos about a possible replacement.
“We’d prefer a young female,” he said.
As for replacing Mohan — that will never happen, Magill said.
The zoo already has a pair of rhinos, a male named Jaunpur and his lady-friend Kalu. Only a year ago Kalu gave birth to Anola, who Magill said is doing well.
The past few years, Mohan had been too old to showcase. He lived out his life quietly, on a piece of zoo property not accessible to visitors.
Those who worked at the zoo, though, visited with Mohan all the time, Magill said.
“It was like he was retired in a spa,” he said. “Every day with him was a gift.”