After being packed into a crate, taken on an 85-hour trip halfway around the world, hoisted from a truck by a forklift, swung to the doorway by a crane and then rolled inside by a team of seven men, Mechi and Kali, two sleepy-eyed greater one-horned rhinoceroses, were presented with ceremony to the National Zoo yesterday.

While dignitaries stood to praise Prince Gyanendra of Nepal for his gift of two Rhinoceros unicornis, which are among the most endangered large mammals on earth, the two pudgy-faced baby females, in separate pens, munched on maple leaves, rested on their plump sides and generally ignored the fuss. Next to them, an oldtime resident, an 11-year-old male rhino, sank to the floor, deep into his mid-morning nap.

"This gift will call to the attention of the public the problems of extinction," said Robert McC. Adams, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, at the ceremony held in the stuffy Elephant House, where an occasional bird flew overhead.

"The estimated population {of the rhinos} has dropped 84 percent since 1970, partially because of the loss of habitat and partially because of poaching," said Adams.

Russell Train, chairman of World Wildlife Fund, an organization active in rhino conservation, explained later that "a full grown rhino horn will bring thousands of dollars in the market. The horns are used for making dagger handles and for medicinal purposes."

In many Asian countries people consume ground rhino horn to reduce fevers, despite studies indicating its lack of medicinal value. (Neither of the two new rhinos at the zoo has a horn, because in captivity the animals rub against the floor and walls of their enclosures and wear the horn away.)

To thwart poaching, the government of Nepal established the Royal Chitwan National Park, one of three remaining wildlife reserves for the greater one-horned rhino and the former home of Mechi and Kali. The population there has increased to a point that some of the animals must be moved to other reserves or zoos.

It was Prince Gyanendra who announced the names of the two new zoo residents, explaining that they were named after "the two rivers that embrace Nepal." Secretary of Interior Donald P. Hodel said the conservation programs of Nepal "have ensured that future generations will be able to admire these creatures."

Attempts will be made to use Mechi and Kali for breeding when they are older, said National Zoo veterinarian Mitchell Bush, who went to Nepal to escort the two. The animals can live to be 50 years old.

For now, Mechi and Kali will adjust to eating baby food, produce and leaves, according to an Elephant House zookeeper who was stepping into one of the pens with a meal of nonfat milk and Gerber rice cereal for infants.

"She tries to butt you with her head and push you up against the wall, if she's angry," said the zookeeper. "Then she opens that mouth and bites you with those little teeth. It hurts."

But mostly the rhinos are calm and peaceful. "And they're quickly learning the meaning of the word 'no'," she said.