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Individual stress responses of white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) to transport: implication for a differential management

Yang, Liangliang, Wang, Wenxia, Huang, Songlin, Wang, Yu, Wronski, Torsten, Deng, Huaiqing, Lu, Jun
Global ecology and conservation 2019 v.17 pp. e00588
Ceratotherium simum, acclimation, aggression, behavior change, body temperature, breeding, energy, epinephrine, heart rate, metabolites, respiratory rate, social environment, stress response, wild animals
Physiological stress in captive wild animals may be caused by stressors such as capture, handling, and transport. Continuous strong stimulation may induce a long-term physiological stress in captive wild animals after transport. Fecal Glucocorticosteroid Metabolites (FGM), vital signs and behavioral changes were used to establish stress responses of white rhinoceros during a translocation process. The result indicated that the overall FGM increased significantly (p < 0.05) during transport compared to FGM baseline concentration established in two rhino breeding centers. Respiratory rate, heart rate, and body temperature were significantly increased during capture and transport. Grouping and aggressive behavior increased after transport, reflecting the acclimatization to the new social environment. Feeding also increased probably due to increased energy consumption during transport. The overall FGM concentration increased during capture and transport but normalized within an average period of 32 days after transport. Individual differences were attributed to previous transport experience and the ability of intrinsic control through increased adrenaline levels. Recommendations to improve the management and welfare of captive white rhinoceros on transport are provided.