AboutZoos, Since 2008


Cap­tive rhi­nos need reg­u­lar check ups to pre­vent health problems

pub­lished 28 Feb­ru­ary 2016 | mod­i­fied 28 Feb­ru­ary 2016

Rhino anesthesia Vetmeduni ViennaWhite rhi­noc­er­oses are an endan­gered species. Their proper cap­tive man­age­ment in zoos is there­fore of great impor­tance. A team of wild ani­mal experts at the Uni­ver­sity of Vet­eri­nary Med­i­cine (Vetmeduni) of Vienna sent out an online sur­vey to var­i­ous zoos in Europe to gather infor­ma­tion about the sorts of prob­lems encoun­tered in cap­tive ani­mal man­age­ment. The sur­vey showed that rhi­noc­er­oses are often treated with antibi­otics and anti-​inflammatory drugs with­out proper diag­no­sis. Actual dis­eases may be over­looked as a result. The study was pub­lished online on 15 Octo­ber 2015 in the Jour­nal of Zoo and Aquar­ium Research.

White rhi­noc­er­oses are among the largest rhi­noc­er­oses in the world. Their nat­ural habi­tat is south­ern Africa. Due to the great demand for their horn, the ani­mals are poached intensely and threat­ened with extinc­tion. The Inter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Nature (IUCN) there­fore placed the south­ern white rhi­noc­eros (Cer­a­totherium s. simum) on the Red List of Threat­ened Species, clas­si­fied as Near Threat­ened. In zoos, south­ern white rhi­noc­er­oses are con­sid­ered easy to keep. The repro­duc­tive suc­cess of cap­tive rhi­nos, how­ever, has not been so good.

With the excep­tion of the repro­duc­tive tract, lit­tle is known in the sci­en­tific lit­er­a­ture about the health of cap­tive rhinos
Annika Posautz, lead-​author, Research Insti­tute of Wildlife Ecol­ogy, Depart­ment of Inte­gra­tive Biol­ogy and Evo­lu­tion, Uni­ver­sity of Vet­eri­nary Med­i­cine, Vienna, Austria »

The wild ani­mal experts Annika Posautz, Felix Knauer and Chris Walzer from the Research Insti­tute of Wildlife Ecol­ogy at Vetmeduni Vienna inves­ti­gated, among other things, how the hous­ing con­di­tions of south­ern white rhi­noc­er­oses dif­fered in zoos across Europe and which health prob­lems were most com­mon. “We wanted to find out what sorts of prob­lems exist in Euro­pean zoos and what could be improved. With the excep­tion of the repro­duc­tive tract, lit­tle is known in the sci­en­tific lit­er­a­ture about the health of cap­tive rhi­nos. The ani­mal man­age­ment also dif­fers from zoo to zoo,” explains Posautz.

Of 70 zoos con­tacted, 45 responded to the online sur­vey. One zoo from Israel also took part in the study. The col­lected data reflect a total of 159 rhinoceroses.

Most com­mon health prob­lems with skin, diges­tive tract and repro­duc­tive organs
The sur­vey showed that der­ma­to­log­i­cal, gas­troin­testi­nal and repro­duc­tive cases accounted for most of the health prob­lems among the ani­mals. The der­mal cases often involved wounds result­ing from aggres­sive inter­ac­tions with other ani­mals. Colic and enteri­tis were among the most com­mon gas­troin­testi­nal prob­lems reported for white rhinoceroses.

In many cases, health checks are con­ducted only super­fi­cially. The actual cause of a health prob­lem can there­fore rarely be found,” Posautz believes. “That also has to do with the fact that, unfor­tu­nately, zoo vet­eri­nar­i­ans are still reluc­tant to sedate the rhi­nos for an in-​depth check-​up and ther­apy.” Many vet­eri­nar­i­ans believe that anaes­thetiz­ing wild ani­mals involves enor­mous effort and high risk.

Pro­phy­lac­tic treat­ment with antibi­otics hides actual dis­ease
What sur­prised and wor­ried the researchers the most was the reg­u­lar, long-​term use of antibi­otics and anti-​inflammatory drugs with­out an exact diag­no­sis. “Such drugs are good for short-​term ther­a­pies. We believe that their long-​term use with­out a spe­cific diag­no­sis rep­re­sents a dan­ger to the ani­mals,” Posautz says. “The actual health issues affect­ing the ani­mals remain hidden.”

The wild ani­mal expert and vet­eri­nar­ian Posautz rec­om­mends: “Reg­u­lar check-​ups, such as par­a­sito­log­i­cal screen­ing and blood tests, could pre­vent many health prob­lems before they arise. Con­sid­er­a­tion must also be given to med­ical train­ing pro­grammes and the use of seda­tives for early, in-​depth health checks and therapies.”

This is how they con­duct reg­u­lar blood sam­pling of black rhino at Ten­noji Zoo in Osaka, Japan:

(Source: Ten­noji Zoo per­son­nel vlogs YouTube Chan­nel)

(Source: Vetmeduni Vienna press release, 24.02.2016)

UN Biodiversity decade
WWF Stop Wildlife Crime
Fight for Flight campaign
End Ivory-funded Terrorism
Support Rewilding Europe
NASA State of Flux

Goal: 7000 tigers in the wild

Tiger range countries map

Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.

about zoos and their mis­sion regard­ing breed­ing endan­gered species, nature con­ser­va­tion, bio­di­ver­sity and edu­ca­tion, which of course relates to the evo­lu­tion of species.
Fol­low me on: