Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: 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


Comparisons of recent estimations of home range sizes for the critically endangered black rhinoceros in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP), South Africa, with historical estimates led reports of a substantial (54%) increase, attributed to over-stocking and habitat deterioration that has far-reaching implications for rhino conservation. Other reports, however, suggest the increase is more likely an artefact caused by applying various home range estimators to non-standardised datasets. We collected 1939 locations of 25 black rhino over six years (2004-2009) to estimate annual home ranges and evaluate the hypothesis that they have increased in size. A minimum of 30 and 25 locations were required for accurate 95% MCP estimation of home range of adult rhinos, during the dry and wet seasons respectively. Forty and 55 locations were required for adult female and male annual MCP home ranges, respectively, and 30 locations were necessary for estimating 90% bivariate kernel home ranges accurately. Average annual 95% bivariate kernel home ranges were 20.4 ± 1.2 km2, 53 ±1.9% larger than 95% MCP ranges (9.8 km2 ± 0.9). When home range techniques used during the late-1960s in HiP were applied to our dataset, estimates were similar, indicating that ranges have not changed substantially in 50 years. Inaccurate, non-standardised, home range estimates and their comparison have the potential to mislead black rhino population management. We recommend that more care be taken to collect adequate numbers of rhino locations within standardized time periods (i.e., season or year) and that the comparison of home ranges estimated using dissimilar procedures be avoided. Home range studies of black rhino have been data deficient and procedurally inconsistent. Standardisation of methods is required.

Concepts: White Rhinoceros, Estimator, Black Rhinoceros, Rhinoceros, Estimation


In African large herbivore assemblages, megaherbivores dominate the biomass and utilise the greatest share of available resources. Consequently, they are considered a separate trophic guild that structures the food niches of coexisting large herbivores. However, there exists little empirical evidence on how food resources are shared within this guild, and none for direct competition for food between megaherbivores. Using the histological analysis of faeces, we explore this phenomenon for African elephant Loxodonta africana and black rhinoceros Diceros bicornis in the Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa, where the accumulated impacts of elephant have reduced browse availability. Despite being unable to generalise beyond our study sites, our observations support the predictions of competition theory (as opposed to optimality theory) by showing (1) a clear seasonal separation in resource use between these megaherbivores that increased as resource availability declined, and (2) rhinoceros changed their selectivity in the absence of elephant (using an adjacent site) by expanding and shifting their diet along the grass-browse continuum, and in relation to availability. Although black rhinoceros are generally considered strict browsers, the most significant shift in diet occurred as rhinoceros increased their preferences for grasses in the presence of elephant. We speculate that the lack of specialised grazing adaptations may increase foraging costs in rhinoceros, through reduced harvest- and handling-efficiencies of grasses. In the short-term, this may be off-set by an enhanced tolerance for low quality food and by seasonally mobilising fat reserves; however, the long-term fitness consequences require further study. Our data suggest that managing elephant at high densities may compromise the foraging opportunities of coexisting browsers. This may be particularly important in small, fenced areas and overlapping preferred habitats where impacts intensify.

Concepts: Asian Elephant, Elephant, EDGE Species, White Rhinoceros, Black Rhinoceros, African Bush Elephant, 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


Tuberculosis caused by Mycobacterium bovis is endemic in the African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) population in the Kruger National Park and other conservation areas in South Africa. The disease has been diagnosed in a total of 21 free ranging or semi-free ranging wildlife species in the country with highly variable presentations in terms of clinical signs as well as severity and distribution of tuberculous lesions. Most species are spillover or dead-end hosts without significant role in the epidemiology of the disease. White rhinoceroses (Ceratotherium simum) are translocated from the Kruger National Park in substantial numbers every year and a clear understanding of their risk to manifest overt tuberculosis disease and to serve as source of infection to other species is required. We report the findings of experimental infection of three white rhinoceroses with a moderately low dose of a virulent field isolate of Mycobacterium bovis. None of the animals developed clinical signs or disseminated disease. The susceptibility of the white rhinoceros to bovine tuberculosis was confirmed by successful experimental infection based on the ante mortem isolation of M. bovis from the respiratory tract of one rhinoceros, the presence of acid-fast organisms and necrotizing granulomatous lesions in the tracheobronchial lymph nodes and the detection of M. bovis genetic material by PCR in the lungs of two animals.

Concepts: International Rhino Foundation, Black Rhinoceros, Mycobacterium, Infectious disease, Rhinoceros, Mycobacterium bovis, White Rhinoceros, Tuberculosis


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


Extant rhinos are the largest extant herbivores exhibiting dietary specialisations for both browse and grass. However, the adaptive value of the wear-induced tooth morphology in rhinos has not been widely studied, and data on individual cusp and tooth positions have rarely been published. We evaluated upper cheek dentition of browsing Diceros bicornis and Rhinoceros sondaicus, mixed-feeding R. unicornis and grazing Ceratotherium simum using an extended mesowear method adapted for rhinos. We included single cusp scoring (EM®-S) to investigate inter-cusp and inter-tooth wear patterns. In accordance with previous reports, general mesowear patterns in D. bicornis and R. sondaicus were attrition-dominated and C. simum abrasion-dominated, reflecting their respective diets. Mesowear patterns for R. unicornis were more attrition-dominated than anticipated by the grass-dominated diet, which may indicate a low intake of environmental abrasives. EM®-S increased differentiation power compared to classical mesowear, with significant inter-cusp and inter-tooth differences detected. In D. bicornis, the anterior cusp was consistently more abrasion-dominated than the posterior. Wear differences in cusp position may relate to morphological adaptations to dietary regimes. Heterogeneous occlusal surfaces may facilitate the comminution of heterogeneous browse, whereas uniform, broad grinding surfaces may enhance the comminution of physically more homogeneous grass. A negative tooth wear gradient was found in D. bicornis, R. sondaicus and R. unicornis, with wear patterns becoming less abrasion-dominated from premolars to molars. No such gradients were evident in C. simum which displayed a uniform wear pattern. In browsers, premolars may be exposed to higher relative grit loads, which may result in the development of wear gradients. The second premolar may also have a role in food cropping. In grazers, high absolute amounts of ingested abrasives may override other signals, leading to a uniform wear pattern and dental function along the tooth row, which could relate to the observed evolution towards homodonty.

Concepts: Grazing, Canine tooth, Teeth, International Rhino Foundation, Premolar, Black Rhinoceros, White Rhinoceros, Rhinoceros


The alleviation of pain and prevention of suffering are key aspects of animal welfare. Unfortunately, analgesic drugs are not available for all species. White rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum), representing one of such species, which survive poaching attempts inflicted with severe facial injuries and gunshot wounds, nonetheless require analgesic support. To improve treatment conditions, this study explored the use of carprofen for the treatment of pain and inflammation in white rhinoceros. The pharmacokinetics of 1 mg/kg intramuscular carprofen was evaluated in six healthy white rhinoceros. The half-life of λz and mean residence time was 105.71 ± 15.67 and 155.01 ± 22.46 hr, respectively. The area under the curve and the maximum carprofen concentration were 904.61 ± 110.78 μg ml-1  hr-1 and 5.77 ± 0.63 μg/ml, respectively. Plasma TXB2 inhibition demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties and indicated that carprofen may be effective for a minimum of 48 hr in most animals. With its long half-life further indicating that a single dose could be effective for several days, we suggest that carprofen may be a useful drug for the treatment of white rhinoceros.

Concepts: Pain, Paracetamol, Black Rhinoceros, Rhinoceros, Ketamine, Codeine, Opioid, White 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