African Zoology

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Stress steroid levels and the short-term impact of routine dehorning in female southern white rhinoceroses (Ceratotherium simum simum)

Marcha Badenhorst, Michelle Otto, Annemieke C. van der Goot, André Ganswindt


Rhinoceros populations in Africa are under severe threat as a result of surging poaching rates and risk-mitigation strategies are continuously adapted in an attempt to ensure the survival of the species. This study compared faecal glucocorticoid metabolite (fGCM) levels of two age classes of limited free-ranging female white rhinos with fGCM levels of adult free-ranging female white rhinos. Subsequently, fGCM alterations in the limited free-ranging animals were monitored following routine dehorning as a measure of the animals’ short-term physiological stress response. Baseline fGCM levels differed significantly between tested groups, with both free-ranging and limited free-ranging adult animals showing significantly higher fGCM levels compared with limited free-ranging juvenile females. In contrast, baseline fGCM levels did not differ significantly between limited free-ranging and free-ranging adult individuals. Routine dehorning procedures resulted in a short-term stress response expressed by a significant increase in fGCM levels 48 h post-dehorning, with stress steroid levels returning to pre-dehorning concentrations 72 h after the procedure.

Keywords: faecal glucocorticoid metabolites, non-invasive hormone monitoring, physiological stress, South Africa
AJOL African Journals Online