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Concept: Rhinoceroses


With only three living individuals left on this planet, the northern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) could be considered doomed for extinction. It might still be possible, however, to rescue the (sub)species by combining novel stem cell and assisted reproductive technologies. To discuss the various practical options available to us, we convened a multidisciplinary meeting under the name “Conservation by Cellular Technologies.” The outcome of this meeting and the proposed road map that, if successfully implemented, would ultimately lead to a self-sustaining population of an extremely endangered species are outlined here. The ideas discussed here, while centered on the northern white rhinoceros, are equally applicable, after proper adjustments, to other mammals on the brink of extinction. Through implementation of these ideas we hope to establish the foundation for reversal of some of the effects of what has been termed the sixth mass extinction event in the history of Earth, and the first anthropogenic one. Zoo Biol. XX:XX-XX, 2016. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Concepts: Extinction event, Species, Rhinoceroses, Rhinoceros, Dinosaur, Northern White Rhinoceros, Extinction, White Rhinoceros


Reproductive tract tumours, specifically leiomyoma, are commonly found in female rhinoceroses. Similar to humans, tumour growth in rhinoceroses is thought to be sex hormone dependent. Tumours can form and expand from the onset of ovarian activity at puberty until the cessation of sex-steroid influences at senescence. Extensive tumour growth results in infertility. The aim of this study was to down regulate reproductive function of tumour-diseased and infertile females to stop further tumour growth using a Gonadotropin releasing factor (GnRF) vaccine. Four infertile southern white (Ceratotherium simum simum) and three Greater one-horned rhinoceroses (rhinoceros unicornis) with active ovaries and 2.7 ± 0.9 and 14.0 ± 1.5 reproductive tract tumours respectively were vaccinated against GnRF (Improvac®, Zoetis, Germany) at 0, 4 and 16 weeks and re-boostered every 6-8 months thereafter. After GnRF vaccination ovarian and luteal activity was suppressed in all treated females. Three months after vaccination the size of the ovaries, the number of follicles and the size of the largest follicle were significantly reduced (P<0.03). Reproductive tract tumours decreased significantly in diameter (Greater-one horned rhino: P<0.0001; white rhino: P<0.01), presumably as a result of reduced sex-steroid influence. The calculated tumour volumes were reduced by 50.8 ± 10.9% in Greater one-horned and 48.6 ± 12.9% in white rhinoceroses. In conclusion, GnRF vaccine effectively down regulated reproductive function and decreased the size of reproductive tract tumours in female rhinoceros. Our work is the first to use down regulation of reproductive function as a symptomatic treatment against benign reproductive tumour disease in a wildlife species. Nonetheless, full reversibility and rhinoceros fertility following GnRF vaccination warrants further evaluation.

Concepts: Reproductive system, Indian Rhinoceros, Northern White Rhinoceros, International Rhino Foundation, Rhinoceroses, Black Rhinoceros, White Rhinoceros, Rhinoceros


Black and white rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis and Ceratotherium simum) are iconic African species that are classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as Critically Endangered and Near Threatened (, respectively [1]. At the end of the 19th century, Southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum) numbers had declined to fewer than 50 animals in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi region of the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province of South Africa, mainly due to uncontrolled hunting [2,3]. Efforts by the Natal Parks Board facilitated an increase in population to over 20,000 in 2015 through aggressive conservation management [2]. Black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) populations declined from several hundred thousand in the early 19th century to ∼65,000 in 1970 and to ∼2,400 by 1995 [1] with subsequent genetic reduction, also due to hunting, land clearances and later poaching [4]. In South Africa, rhinoceros poaching incidents have increased from 13 in 2007 to 1,215 in 2014 [1]. This has occurred despite strict trade bans on rhinoceros products and strict enforcement in recent years.

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


Between 1990 and 2007, 15 southern white (Ceratotherium simum simum) and black (Diceros bicornis) rhinoceroses on average were killed illegally every year in South Africa. Since 2007 illegal killing of southern white rhinoceros for their horn has escalated to >950 individuals/year in 2013. We conducted an ecological-economic analysis to determine whether a legal trade in southern white rhinoceros horn could facilitate rhinoceros protection. Generalized linear models were used to examine the socioeconomic drivers of poaching, based on data collected from 1990 to 2013, and to project the total number of rhinoceroses likely to be illegally killed from 2014 to 2023. Rhinoceros population dynamics were then modeled under 8 different policy scenarios that could be implemented to control poaching. We also estimated the economic costs and benefits of each scenario under enhanced enforcement only and a legal trade in rhinoceros horn and used a decision support framework to rank the scenarios with the objective of maintaining the rhinoceros population above its current size while generating profit for local stakeholders. The southern white rhinoceros population was predicted to go extinct in the wild <20 years under present management. The optimal scenario to maintain the rhinoceros population above its current size was to provide a medium increase in antipoaching effort and to increase the monetary fine on conviction. Without legalizing the trade, implementing such a scenario would require covering costs equal to approximately $147,000,000/year. With a legal trade in rhinoceros horn, the conservation enterprise could potentially make a profit of $717,000,000/year. We believe the 35-year-old ban on rhinoceros horn products should not be lifted unless the money generated from trade is reinvested in improved protection of the rhinoceros population. Because current protection efforts seem to be failing, it is time to evaluate, discuss, and test alternatives to the present policy.

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


The Kanapoi collection of Rhinocerotidae, first studied by Hooijer and Patterson (1972), now consists of 25 specimens and substantial reinterpretation of their affinities is made here. Kanapoi post-dates the extinction of Brachypotherium and the whole collection belongs to the Dicerotini. It is important because it includes the type-specimen of Diceros praecox, a species that remains poorly known, but looks slightly larger and more primitive than the modern ‘black’ rhino, Diceros bicornis. A second species is probably ancestral to the modern ‘white’ rhino, Ceratotherium simum; it looks identical to the Pleistocene North African Ceratotherium mauritanicum, of which Ceratotherium efficax is probably a synonym. The evolution of the Dicerotini in Africa can be regarded as an increasing divergence in diet and related morphofunctional adaptations in the two lineages. The co-occurrence at Kanapoi of both Diceros and Ceratotherium, with distinct dietary preferences, suggests some habitat heterogeneity, although the low sample size prevents robust paleoecological conclusions. The Equidae are also rare and consist mostly of isolated teeth. I take the most parsimonious option of tentatively including all of them in a single species, whose identification is left open. Dental features of eastern African Pliocene to Pleistocene hipparions may reflect increasing adaptation to grazing.

Concepts: Rhinoceroses, Odd-toed ungulate, Horse, International Rhino Foundation, Africa, White Rhinoceros, Black Rhinoceros, Rhinoceros


Extant rhinoceroses share the characteristic nasal horn, although the number and size of horns varies among the five species. Although all species are herbivores, their dietary preferences, occipital shapes, and common head postures vary. Traditionally, to predict the “usual” head posture (the most used head posture of animals during normal unstressed activities, i.e., standing) of rhinos, the occipital shape was used. While a backward inclined occiput implies a downward hanging head (often found in grazers), a forward inclined occiput is related to the horizontal head posture in browsing rhinos. In this study, the lateral semicircular canal (LSC) of the bony labyrinth was virtually reconstructed from µCT-images in order to investigate a possible link between LSC orientation and head posture in extant rhinoceroses. The usual head posture was formerly reconstructed for several non-rhinoceros taxa with the assumption that the LSC of the inner ear is held horizontal (parallel to the ground) during normal activity of the living animal. The current analysis of the LSC orientation resulted in a downward inclined usual head posture for the grazing white rhinoceros and a nearly horizontal head posture in the browsing Javan rhinoceros. The other three browsing or mixed feeding species show subhorizontal (closer to horizontal than a downgrade inclination) head postures. The results show that anatomical and behavioral aspects, like occipital shape, presence and size of horns/tusk-like lower incisors, as well as feeding and feeding height preferences influence the usual head posture. Because quantitative behavioral data are lacking for the usual head postures of the extant rhinos, the here described relationship between the LSC orientation and the resulting head posture linked to feeding preferences gives new insights. The results show, that the inner ear provides additional information to interpret usual head postures linked to feeding preferences that can easily be adapted to fossil rhinoceroses.

Concepts: Rhinoceroses, International Rhino Foundation, Herbivore, Grazing, Black Rhinoceros, Horn, Javan Rhinoceros, Rhinoceros


Global populations of rhinoceros have declined alarmingly, from about 500,000 at the beginning of the 20(th) century to 29,000 in 2016, largely due to an escalation of poaching for rhinoceros horn (Traffic 2016; Biggs et al. 2013). The current global rhino population is comprised of three Asian Species and two African species, the latter located in South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia and Zimbabwe,. In Africa, the Southern white rhinoceros population is estimated at 20,700; and there are estimated to be around 4,885 black rhinoceros. The greater one-horned rhinoceros, found in Nepal and India, has a population of approximately 3,555. The other Asian rhino species are confined to Indonesia and have much lower numbers; there are fewer than 100 Sumatran rhinos and only 58-61 Javan rhinos (Save the Rhino 2016a). This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: African Union, International Rhino Foundation, South Africa, Black Rhinoceros, White Rhinoceros, Rhinoceroses, Africa, 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: Menstrual cycle, White Rhinoceros, Rhinoceros, Demography, Rhinoceroses, Population, Eastern Black Rhinoceros, Black Rhinoceros


As the last male northern white rhino is euthanased, leaving just two females - his daughter and granddaughter - what is the future for this subspecies?Sophie Ingledewexplains.

Concepts: Future, Rhinoceroses, Reproduction, White Rhinoceros


The population of free-roaming white rhinoceroses (Ceratotherium simum) is under serious threat. Captive breeding of this species is therefore becoming more important, but this is challenging and often not successful. Obtaining reproductive reference values is a crucial aspect of improving these breeding results. In this study performed between 2008 and 2016, reproductive performance was analysed in 1,354 animals kept in a 8000 hectares game-ranched environment. Descriptive statistics of this captive population showed an average annual herd growth (%) of 7 .0±0.1 (min -9 -max 15). Average calving rates were calculated as an annual calving rate of 20% and biennial calving rate of 37% adult females calving per year. Females had a median age of 83.2 months at first calving (IQR 72.9-110.7) and inter-calving intervals of 29.2 (IQR 24.6-34.8) months. Furthermore, translocations of animals did not interfere with reproductive success in terms of inter-calving periods or age at first calving. Multivariate models showed a clear seasonal calving pattern with a significant increase of the number of calvings during December-April when compared to April-December. Our results did not show any significant skewed progeny sex ratios. Weather observations showed no significant influence of rain or season on sex ratios of the calves.

Concepts: Female, Male, Rhinoceroses, International Rhino Foundation, Black Rhinoceros, Northern White Rhinoceros, Rhinoceros, White Rhinoceros