Health and health management of captive white rhinoceroses (Ceratotherium simum): results from an online survey
In 2009 an online survey was sent out to various zoos across Europe and Israel to gather information concerning the health status and management of captive white rhinoceroses (Ceratotherium s. simum). The goals of the online survey were to understand (1) the occurrence of disease in different organ systems, (2) the role of different management systems in disease incidents and (3) the effect of age and sex on the disease occurrence. Of 70 institutions contacted, 45 responded to the survey. The answers were analysed and baseline information concerning management and health in the various captive settings was collated. The analysis shows that some organ systems (skin, gastrointestinal tract and reproductive tract) are more affected by disease issues than others. The study also shows that veterinarians are still reluctant to sedate or anaesthetizse rhinos in order to make a diagnosis. This results in the long-term and repeated use of antibiotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs based solely on visual examination of the animal. This approach can potentially mask disease progression and lead to a significant worsening of the initial problem and ultimately to death.