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Concept: Eastern Black Rhinoceros


Stockmanship is a term used to describe the management of animals with a good stockperson someone who does this in a in a safe, effective, and low-stress manner for both the stock-keeper and animals involved. Although impacts of unfamiliar zoo visitors on animal behaviour have been extensively studied, the impact of stockmanship i.e familiar zoo keepers is a new area of research; which could reveal significant ramifications for zoo animal behaviour and welfare. It is likely that different relationships are formed dependant on the unique keeper-animal dyad (human-animal interaction, HAI). The aims of this study were to (1) investigate if unique keeper-animal dyads were formed in zoos, (2) determine whether keepers differed in their interactions towards animals regarding their attitude, animal knowledge and experience and (3) explore what factors affect keeper-animal dyads and ultimately influence animal behaviour and welfare. Eight black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis), eleven Chapman’s zebra (Equus burchellii), and twelve Sulawesi crested black macaques (Macaca nigra) were studied in 6 zoos across the UK and USA. Subtle cues and commands directed by keepers towards animals were identified. The animals latency to respond and the respective behavioural response (cue-response) was recorded per keeper-animal dyad (n = 93). A questionnaire was constructed following a five-point Likert Scale design to record keeper demographic information and assess the job satisfaction of keepers, their attitude towards the animals and their perceived relationship with them. There was a significant difference in the animals' latency to appropriately respond after cues and commands from different keepers, indicating unique keeper-animal dyads were formed. Stockmanship style was also different between keepers; two main components contributed equally towards this: “attitude towards the animals” and “knowledge and experience of the animals”. In this novel study, data demonstrated unique dyads were formed between keepers and zoo animals, which influenced animal behaviour.

Concepts: Psychology, The Animals, Extinction, Rhinoceros, White Rhinoceros, Black Rhinoceros, Zoo, Eastern Black Rhinoceros


Ex situ populations of endangered species such as the black rhinoceros play an important role in global conservation strategies. However, the European captive population of eastern black rhinoceros is performing sub-optimally, with growth rates and genetic viability limited by low birth rates and high reproductive skew. We investigated several intrinsic differences between parous and nulliparous females that may underlie differences in reproductive success, including ovarian cyclicity, adrenal activity, behaviour and body condition. Faecal samples were collected from 39 females (17 parous, 15 nulliparous and 7 pre-reproductive) at 11 zoological institutions, every other day for between 4months and 6years. Progestagen metabolite concentration indicated that although all non-pregnant females exhibited ovarian activity, irregular cyclicity was common. Longer cycles (>40days) were more common in nulliparous females and periods of acyclicity observed more often in females that had not bred for at least 7years. Even when endocrine data indicated clear ovarian activity, overt behavioural signs of oestrus were not always apparent, particularly among nulliparous females. Faecal glucocorticoids did not differ between parous and nulliparous females, although did differ according to individual temperament. More unpredictable temperaments were associated with higher glucocorticoids, and nulliparous females tended to be rated as more unpredictable. Finally, nulliparous females had higher body condition scores than parous females. This is the first comprehensive survey of the reproductive physiology of this European captive population, and highlights a number of intrinsic differences related to parity, which may underlie differences in reproductive success among captive female black rhinoceros.

Concepts: Demography, Population, Menstrual cycle, Rhinoceros, White Rhinoceros, Black Rhinoceros, Rhinoceroses, Eastern Black Rhinoceros


BackgroundA huge effort in rhinoceros conservation has focused on poaching and habitat loss as factors leading to the dramatic declines in the endangered eastern black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis michaeli) and the southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum). Nevertheless, the role disease and parasite infections play in the mortality of protected populations has largely received limited attention. Infections with piroplasmosis caused by Babesia bicornis and Theileria bicornis has been shown to be fatal especially in small and isolated populations in Tanzania and South Africa. However, the occurrence and epidemiology of these parasites in Kenyan rhinoceros is not known.ResultsUtilizing 18S rRNA gene as genetic marker to detect rhinoceros infection with Babesia and Theileria, we examined blood samples collected from seven rhinoceros populations consisting of 114 individuals of black and white rhinoceros. The goal was to determine the prevalence in Kenyan populations, and to assess the association of Babesia and Theileria infection with host species, age, sex, location, season and population mix (only black rhinoceros comparing to black and white rhinoceros populations). We did not detect any infection with Babesia in the sequenced samples, while the prevalence of T. bicornis in the Kenyan rhinoceros population was 49.12% (56/114). White rhinoceros had significantly higher prevalence of infection (66%) compared to black rhinoceros (43%). The infection of rhinoceros with Theileria was not associated with animal age, sex or location. The risk of infection with Theileria was not higher in mixed species populations compared to populations of pure black rhinoceros.ConclusionIn the rhinoceros studied, we did not detect the presence of Babesia bicornis, while Theileria bicornis was found to have a 49.12% prevalence with white rhinoceros showing a higher prevalence (66%) comparing with black rhinoceros (43%). Other factors such as age, sex, location, and population mix were not found to play a significant role.

Concepts: Rhinoceros, White Rhinoceros, Black Rhinoceros, International Rhino Foundation, Rhinoceroses, Northern White Rhinoceros, Eastern Black Rhinoceros


Among natural populations of polygynous species, males often vary in their lifetime reproductive success. However, in managed populations of endangered species, either in situ or as part of captive breeding programmes, it is important to understand why differences in reproductive success occur. The European captive population of the critically endangered eastern black rhinoceros is currently under-performing relative to their wild counterparts, with low reproductive output and high reproductive skew limiting growth and genetic diversity. To investigate why over 40% of captive males fail to breed, faecal samples were collected weekly from 23 males at 12 institutions across Europe for 4-32 months. Testosterone metabolite concentration was compared between proven and non-proven males and a number of intrinsic and extrinsic factors that could influence reproductive success were also investigated. Males that sired within the last 3½ years had significantly higher androgen concentrations than non-proven males, and average testosterone was positively correlated with the number of offspring sired per year spent in the reproductive age class. Proven and non-proven males did not differ in their body condition, or in average faecal glucocorticoid concentration. Differences in individual temperament were associated with adrenal activity, but did not correlate with reproductive category. Highest testosterone concentrations were observed in proven males that were housed with females during oestrus, and lowest concentrations in non-proven females not housed with females at all during the study period. Further work is necessary to determine whether proven males had higher testosterone due to underlying differences associated with quality, or whether external stimuli such as access to females could influence testosterone concentration and increase a male’s chances of becoming a successful breeder.

Concepts: Male, Reproduction, Female, Rhinoceros, White Rhinoceros, Black Rhinoceros, Rhinoceroses, Eastern Black Rhinoceros


Objective: The African black rhino is an endangered species. In Germany there are only five zoos where this species is kept and breeding has not been successful in all of them. In Magdeburg Zoo the last birth occurred in December 2005, and during the following years, no matings could be observed. During the construction of a new enclosure to enable a more natural mating behaviour, the reproduction status of the rhino cows was evaluated and a hormonal treatment was performed. Material and methods: Since 2009, faecal samples from two rhino cows (Diceros bicornis michaeli; “Mana”, 30 years old, and “Maleika”, 17 years old) were collected periodically, and the pregnanediol-glucuronide (PdG) and oestradiol concentrations were determined using enzyme immunoassay and radioimmunoassay, respectively. Following evaluation of the results, both cows were trea- ted for 12 days with Regumate® Equine, a synthetic progesterone, during the period of PdG-dominance. Results: “Mana” accepted the bull 11 days after completion of the hormonal treatment, and in December 2011 gave birth to a healthy calf. “Maleika” had her first ever oestrus 13 days after completion of the medication and also accepted the bull. Thereafter, she had two regular oestrus cycles with normal mating behaviour. Her first calf was born in July 2012. Conclusion and clinical relevance: The causal treatment of both cows, following a long period of infertility, with synthetic progesterone led to their pregnancy and the birth of healthy calves. The commercial product Regumate® Equine is appropriate to stimulate the sexual cycle in temporarily infertile black rhinos. Attention should be paid to the timing of the medication and the required dose.

Concepts: Estrogen, Cattle, Menstrual cycle, Rhinoceros, White Rhinoceros, Black Rhinoceros, Rhinoceroses, Eastern Black Rhinoceros