Concept: Ceratotherium neumayri
White rhinoceros ejaculates (n=9) collected by electroejaculation from four males were shipped (10°C, 12h) to develop procedures for the production of chilled and frozen-thawed sex-sorted spermatozoa of adequate quality for artificial insemination (AI). Of all electroejaculate fractions, 39.7% (31/78) exhibited high quality post-collection (≥70% total motility and membrane integrity) and of those, 54.8% (17/31) presented reduced in vitro quality after transport and were retrospectively determined to exhibit urine-contamination (≥21.0μg creatinine/ml). Of fractions analyzed for creatinine concentration, 69% (44/64) were classified as urine-contaminated. For high quality non-contaminated fractions, in vitro parameters (motility, velocity, membrane, acrosome and DNA integrity) of chilled non-sorted and sorted spermatozoa were well-maintained at 5°C up to 54h post-collection, whereby >70% of post-transport (non-sorted) or post-sort (sorted) values were retained. By 54h post-collection, some motility parameters were higher (P<0.05) for non-sorted spermatozoa (total motility, rapid velocity, average path velocity) whereas all remaining motion parameters as well as membrane, acrosome and DNA integrity were similar between sperm types. In comparison with a straw method, directional freezing resulted in enhanced (P<0.05) motility and velocity of non-sorted and sorted spermatozoa, with comparable overall post-thaw quality between sperm types. High purity enrichment of X-bearing (89±6%) or Y-bearing (86±3%) spermatozoa was achieved using moderate sorting rates (2540±498X-spermatozoa/s; 1800±557Y-spermatozoa/s). Collective in vitro characteristics of sorted-chilled or sorted-frozen-thawed spermatozoa derived from high quality electroejaculates indicate acceptable fertility potential for use in AI.
The Southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) is a threatened species, central to the tourism appeal of private game reserves in South Africa. Privately owned reserves in South Africa tend to be smaller than government run reserves such as Kruger National Park. Because of their relatively small size and the often heterogeneous nature of the landscape private game reserve managers benefit from detailed knowledge of white rhinoceros terrain selection preferences, which can be assessed from their ranging behaviours. We collected adult and sub-adult white rhinoceros distribution data over a 15 month period, calculating individual range size using kernel density estimation analysis within a GIS. From this, terrain selectivity was calculated using 50% and 95% kernels to extract terrain composition values. Jacob’s correction of the Ivlev’s selectivity index was subsequently applied to the terrain composition of each individual to identify trends in selectivity. Results reveal that adult males hold exclusive territories considerably smaller than those found in previous work conducted in “open” or large reserves. Similarly, results for the size of male versus female territories were also not in keeping with those from previous field studies, with males, rather than females, having the larger territory requirement. Terrain selection for both genders and age classes (adult and sub-adult) showed a strong preference for open grassland and avoidance of hill slope and riparian terrains. This research reveals white rhinoceros terrain selection preferences and how they influence range requirements in small, closed reserves. We conclude that this knowledge will be valuable in future white rhinoceros conservation management in small private game reserves, particularly in decisions surrounding removal of surplus individuals or augmentation of existing populations, calculation of reserve carrying capacity and future private reserve acquisition.
Recognition of information from acoustic signals is crucial in many animals, and individuals are under selection pressure to discriminate between the signals of conspecifics and heterospecifics or males and females. Here, we first report that rhinos use information encoded in their calls to assess conspecifics and individuals of closely related species. The southern (Ceratotherium simum) and critically endangered northern (C. cottoni) white rhinos are the most social out of all the rhinoceros species and use a contact call pant. We found that southern white rhino pant calls provide reliable information about the caller’s sex, age class and social situation. Playback experiments on wild territorial southern white rhinoceros males revealed that they responded more strongly to the pant calls of conspecific females compared to the calls of other territorial males. This suggests that pant calls are more important form of communication between males and females than between territorial males. Territorial southern males also discriminated between female and territorial male calls of northern species and reacted more intensively to the calls of northern than southern males. This might be caused by a novelty effect since both species naturally live in allopatry. We conclude that white rhinos can directly benefit from assessing individuals at long distances using vocal cues especially because their eyesight is poor. Pant calls thus likely play a significant role in their social relationships and spatial organization. In addition, better understanding of vocal communication in white rhinos might be helpful in conservation management particularly because of their low reproduction in captivity.
Inter-individual relationships particularly in socially living mammals often require a well-developed communication system. Vocal and olfactory signals are the most important for the communication of rhinos, however, their vocal communication has been investigated to a very limited extent so far. White rhinos have the most developed social system out of all the rhinoceros species and vocal signals might therefore play an important role in their social interactions. We recorded repetitive contact pant calls from six captive northern white rhinos (Ceratotherium cottoni) and 14 captive and free-ranging southern white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum) and examined if they transmit information about individual identity, species, social context and age class. Discriminant analyses revealed that a high percentage of the pant calls of both species could be classified to a correct individual. We calculated signature information capacity of pant calls recorded from adult animals in isolation at 3.19 bits for the northern white rhinos and at 3.15 bits for the southern white rhinos, which can potentially allow for a vocal discrimination of nine individuals of both species. We found that pant calls varied by species. Northern white rhinos had longer calls and also differed from the southern white rhinos in several frequency parameters of their calls. We also analysed the pant calls of southern white rhinos for the differences between the age classes and between social contexts in which they were recorded. Our results show that pant calls carry information about individual, species, age class and context. The ability to recognize this information would allow rhinos, in addition to olfactory cues, to communicate with highly increased accuracy. A better understanding of communication of white rhinos has potential practical use in their management and conservation particularly because of the low breeding success of white rhinos in captivity.
Many creatures, including the myopic rhinoceros, depend on hearing and smell even more than on their sight. Noise impacts human health and reproduction, and may impact these other mammals similarly, or even more. Rhinos have been recorded vocalizing infrasonically and sonically. They have a poor breeding record in urban zoos, in which infrasonic noise tends to be chronic. Herd size and composition, the age of potential mates, substrate, enclosure design, and other factors have been studied but little attention if any has been paid to soundscape. As a first step to comparing the soundscapes of facilities in which rhinos have and have not bred successfully, this project recorded and analyzed the soundscape of white rhinos at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Texas, one of five Conservation Centers for Species Survival, and one of the few U.S. facilities to successfully breed this species in recent years. Animal responses to sound have been shown to depend on sound level, rate of onset, duration, number of events, spectral distribution of the sound energy, presence of pure tones, the relative level of background noise, and semantics. Similar parameters were analyzed for the data recorded at Fossil Rim and will be presented here.