What do you call a baby rhino at the NC Zoo? Anything her daddy wants.

The public — and her rhino papa — have chosen a name for the baby girl rhino born July 2 at the N.C. Zoo.

She’ll be called Nandi. It’s pronounced Nahn-dee, according to a statement from the zoo on Friday.

The public was invited to vote on seven names chosen by the zoo’s rhino keepers. The names were taken from strong female leaders in history or myth.

Zoo spokeswoman Debbie Foster Fuchs said the top three names chosen in the public poll were Nandi, Mamba and Diana. Voters eschewed the charming Wilhelmina and Penelope.

Male rhinos typically aren’t involved in raising offspring, but the zoo also invited Stormy, the father, to participate in the naming game by offering him a favorite treat, Timothy hay, in three African-inspired, custom-made poles spaced several feet apart.

“He immediately trotted over to the pole that was named “Nandi,’” Fuchs said.

Nandi, which means “a woman of high esteem,” according to the release, was born in the 1760s and was Queen of the Zulus. She died in 1827 in the area now known as South Africa. Nandi was the mother of Shaka, King of the Zulus. Shaka is considered by some as one of the greatest Zulu chiefs and African military leaders. There are accounts that his establishment of all-female regiments was influenced by his warrior-mother.

Nandi, a southern white rhino, was born to mother Linda. She was the first rhino born at the zoo in 41 years.

Eleven days after Nandi was born, the zoo announced the birth of a second female baby rhino on Friday, July 13, to mom Kit and dad Stormy. The zoo will offer details about her naming process soon.

At the beginning of the 20th century, southern white rhinos were hunted to near extinction for their horns, which some erroneously believe provide medicinal benefits. Rhino horn is constructed from keratin, the same material that makes up human fingernails and hair. There are around 20,000 southern white rhinos left in the wild, mostly in the southern Africa region, the zoo said.

Wild populations still face significant threats from poaching and habitat loss. In addition to their work with the rhinos at the N.C. Zoo, staff work on projects in several countries in Southern Africa to protect wild rhinos from poaching and to save the species from extinction, the park said.

The zoo’s herd now boasts nine rhinos: Stormy and females Linda, Kit, Natalie and Abby, plus the two calves, which are all on public view in the Watani Grasslands’ 40-acre habitat, and two older, retired rhinos, Stan and Olivia, who live in an off-viewing habitat.

Additional photos of Nandi and Linda are available here.

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