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Rhino Nutrition Update AAZK, 2005. Rhino TAG Nutrition Advisory Group. Ellen Dierenfeld, Chair (Sumatran) Marcus Clauss, Univ Zurich (Black) Michael Schlegel, Disney (White) Kerrin Grant, Utah State (Asiatic). Q/A from Zookeeper Survey (thanks to Dawn Strasser!!).

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Rhino nutrition update aazk 2005 l.jpg

Rhino Nutrition UpdateAAZK, 2005

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Rhino TAG Nutrition Advisory Group

  • Ellen Dierenfeld, Chair (Sumatran)

  • Marcus Clauss, Univ Zurich (Black)

  • Michael Schlegel, Disney (White)

  • Kerrin Grant, Utah State (Asiatic)

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Q/A from Zookeeper Survey (thanks to Dawn Strasser!!)

  • New nutritional concerns

  • Doses of vitamin E; how often evaluate

  • Update on White Oak pellet feed study

  • Tannins for binding iron – feed study

  • Forages: timothy vs. Alfalfa

  • Browse – length of time to feed out and still maintain nutritional/enrichment value; if root on plant, degrades less?

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Q/A from Zookeeper Survey (thanks to Dawn Strasser!!)

  • Specific foods NOT to feed?

  • Perennial ryegrass staggars

  • D toxicity?

  • Pregnancy changes in diet

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Diseases with Possible Nutritional Links - Black Rhino

  • Hemosiderosis - mineral imbalances

  • Hemolytic anemia - vitamin E, antiox

  • Ulcerative dermatitis - glucose, amino acid, fatty acid, mineral imbalances

  • Peripheral vasculitis (IHV) - vitamin C, antiox, minerals, fatty acids

  • Overall impaired immune function

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Research Updates:

  • Mineral Survey, Tissues & Blood

  • Novel Antioxidant Metabolism

  • Tannin Binding Salivary Proteins

  • Intake trials in Indian Rhinos

  • Field Studies:

    • Vitamin E & Fatty Acids in Native Browses

    • Serum Vitamin E in Rhinos in South Africa

    • Field Ecology Studies – South Africa, Namibia

  • New Initiatives

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Minerals in Rhinos

E.S. Dierenfeld (St. Louis), S. Atkinson (Muskingum College), A.M. Craig (Oregon State), K.C. Walker (Oregon State), W.J. Streich (Berlin) & M. Clauss (Zurich)

Zoo Biology 24:51-72 (2005)

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Mineral Highlights

  • Serum/plasma

    • Zoo blacks (n=34); Free-ranging (n=27)

    • Zoo whites (n=3-16); Free-ranging (n=5)

    • Indian (n=3), Sumatran (n=3)

  • Liver (21 blacks, 6 whites, 2-4 Indian & Sumatran)

  • Horse a good model of metabolism

  • Rhinos ‘er blood Ca & Se (captive only); low Na compared to equids

  • Browsers high Fe (blood & liver)

  • Browsers low Cu (liver) – grazers high

  • Liver K, Mg, Co, & Mo with age

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Iron Issues – Browsing rhinos

  • Captives & females higher

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Iron Issues – Browsing rhinos

  • Females higher, both sexes increase with age

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Linked with low tannins? Antiox, increased availability of iron but not solely diet

Lack of fiber? Also can increase Fe bioavail – again, soluble CHO may be important

Influence of dietary vitamin C? (citrus effect doubtful - native browses likely high)

Iron Issues – Browsing Rhinos

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Mineral Interactions

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Elevated Free Tyrosine in Rhinoceros Erytrhocytes

Weber, B.W., D.E. Paglia, E.H. Harley

Comp Biochem Physiol 138:105-109 (2004)

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Tyrosine in rhinoceros RBCs (but not plasma) 50-fold higher than humans

Also elevated in other Perissodactyla

Captives significantly lower compared to free-ranging; also variation across species

Function as antioxidant?

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Tannins & Rhinos

M. Clauss, Munich (now Zurich); J. Gehrke, J. Fickel, & M. Lechner-Doll, Berlin; E.J. Flach, Whipsnade; E.S. Dierenfeld, WCS (now St. Louis); J.-M. Hatt, Zurich

Comp Biochem Physiol 140:67-72 (2005)

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Salivary tannin-binding proteins (TBP) related to dietary habits – browsers highest

Compared saliva samples from grazer (white, n=9), browser (black, n=10), and mixed (Indian, n=8) feeding habits

Used hydrolyzable (tannic acid) & condensed (quebracho solution) tannin stds

Tannin-Binding Salivary Proteins in 3 Rhino Species

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Black rhino – bound both H & CT >> white

Indian bound H = black, CT >> black

Difference between black & white expected, results from Indian may indicate evolutionarily recent switch from browsing

Tannin-Binding Salivary Proteins in 3 Rhino SpeciesResults……..

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Related to dietary habits – browsers highest

Black rhinos eat tannins in nature – seasonal dietary habits might benefit from inducible mechanism.

Six animals (3 facilities) fed 3 mo:

Regular diet

Diet + 5% tannic acid pellet

Diet + 5% quebracho pellet

Tannin-Binding Salivary Proteins Inducible in Black Rhinos

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Significant in tannic acid-binding capacity with both tannic acid and quebracho feeding

n.s. trend for change in quebracho-binding capacity with quebracho feeding; no change with tannic acid feeding

Hydrolyzable tannins play a greater role in native environment of rhino?

HT >> CT at iron binding? Ongoing trials both in Europe & the US, with Fe balance

Induction of Tannin-Binding Salivary Proteins …. Cont.

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Indian Rhino Nutrition:Zoo Study

M. Clauss, C. Polster, E. Kienzle, H.Wiesner, K. Baumgartner, F. von Houwald, W.J. Streich, E. S. Dierenfeld

Zoo Biology 24:1-14 (2005)

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Aims of the Study

  • Chronic foot problems, leiomyomas – linked with excess body weight?

  • Intake, Digestion

    • difference between zoo diets

    • (Nürnberg, n=2; München, n=2; Zurich, n=3; Bronx, n=4)

    • Diets with or without concentrates

  • Mineral (Ca) metabolism

  • Water intake

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Zoo Diets

  • Nürnberg

    Grass hay, grass silage, pellets,

    Fruit & vegetable, mineral biscuits

  • Munich

    Grass hay, pellets, fruit & vegetable, mineral

  • Basel

    Straw, pellets, hay cobs, fruit & vegetable

  • Bronx

    Mixed hay, pellets, (minimal) produce

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Particle Passage & Dry matter intake

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Dry Matter Digestibility

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Dry Matter Digestibility& Crude Fiber

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  • consumed 0.5-1.1% of body weight (DMI) daily

  • digestible energy 0.27-0.99 MJ DE/kg BW0 .75 (compared with est. reqt. 0.49-0.66)

  • 64% (7 of 11) consumed more energy, even on roughage-only diet

  • Water intake 30-49 mL/kg BW daily (~equid)

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  • hay ad libitum diet is possible


  • mineral &/or vitamin supplement needed

  • straw + concentrate diet:

    • energy provision as good as hay only diet

    • May need to restrict both concentrate & forage

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Ca-Metabolism in Rhinos

  • Similar to horses, rabbits

  • not dependent on Vit D (?)

  • Elimination: URINE

  • Consequence:

    • Ca-stones in bladder & kidney

      (reported in rabbits, horses; never in rhino)

  • Other minerals, similar to horses

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Rhino Browse: Free-Ranging & Captive





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  • Best nutrient ratio to duplicate browse? More grass than legume – sol CHO (in grass) impt. ??? - needs investigation

  • Good quality grass forage & proper pellet (6:1) alone can meet maintenance reqts.

  • Alfalfa NOT considered browse.

  • Browse can have enrichment value even if nutrient profiles not maintained.

  • Degradation depends on nutrient; don‘t know effect of roots – worth testing.

  • Keep as palatable as possible.

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Lucerne (Alfalfa) can be Problematic

  • High [ ] N, Ca, Mg

  • Increased hindgut pH

  • Very digestible, altered passage rate

  • Salivary buffering issues, acid/base imbalances more prevalent

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Mineral Imbalances Due to Improper Forages?

  • Associated with lucerne (alfalfa) feeding – in both grazers & browsers

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Grass Also Problematic?

  • Grass staggars reported with perennial ryegrass (Bluett et al., NZ Vet J 52:48, 2004)

  • Due to fungal endophyte with alkaloids; localized in leaf base (overgrazing) and seed heads (undergrazing)

  • Clinically – tremors, lethargy, staggar, collapse

  • Test for lolitrem B (>1 mg/kg DM) or don‘t use pastures/hay containing perennial ryegrass with wild endophyte

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PREGNANCY DIETS (all rhinos):

  • NO increased need until last trimester & during lactation

  • Increased:

    • Calorie needs (about double)

    • protein reqts. (8-10 to 12-14%)

    • Ca (0.3 – 0.5%) and P (0.2-0.3%)

    • No other changes recommended with equine model

  • Best to alter digestibility of diet – increasing browse and/or legume forage (adds protein and Ca), possibly targeted concentrates - not double quantities per se due to physical limitations

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Plasma Vitamin E in Free-Ranging Black Rhinos

Mean = 0.86 ug/ml; similar to other studies

Ndondo et al., 2004

S Afr J Wild Rec 34:100-102

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Plasma Vitamin E in Free-Ranging Black Rhinos

Clauss et al., 2002

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Plasma Fat-Soluble Vitamins in Black Rhinos

Clauss et al., 2002

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Vitamin E Concentrations in Black Rhino Browses

Ndondo et al., 2004

Dierenfeld et al., 1995

Ghebremeskel et al., 1991

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  • Recommended doses (dietary levels) of vitamin E:

  • Based on available information, ensure all species consume diets containing at least 50 IU/kg DM – up to ~200 IU/kg.

  • Not doses per se, but if eat 1% of body mass, a 2000 kg black will eat 20 kg DM X 50 IU = 1000 IU minimal.

  • Evaluate at least annually

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Vitamin D Toxicity – an Isolated Problem in 2002

Manufacturer very responsive, no diet problem isolated

Miller et al., summary, 2003

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Fatty Acids in Black Rhino Browses (South Africa)

  • Seasonal shift - increased PUFAs (C18) in winter vs spring

  • No relationship with vit E levels but essential for vit E absorption

Ndondo et al., 2004

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Evidence of FA Deficiency in Black Rhinos

  • Browse composition (Zimbabwe & NA temperate spp.)

  • Fresh browse - a-linolenic (n-3) 15X >> linoleic (n-6); immediate oxidation

  • Zoo vs. free-range diet - linoleic 5X, linolenic 1/3

    Grant et al., 2002, J. Wildl. Dis.; Wright, 1998

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Clinical response to dietary FA supplementation

Adding flax-based supplement altered w-3:w-6 ratios favorably

Zoo diet - opposite effects on ratio

Suedmeyer & Dierenfeld, 1998

Adipose tissue FA [ ] as measure of long-term diet effects

25% of rhinos (n=20) deficient in C18:2 (linoleic); >50% undetectable C18:3 (a-linolenic)

No free-range tissue samples as baseline

Fatty Acid Investigations - Zoo Rhinos: Short- & Long-Term

Dierenfeld & Frank, 1998

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  • Currently summarizing FA in rhino plasma (US and European zoos) vs. Free-ranging

  • Limit foods high in PUFAs unless adequate antioxidant (Polyphenolics? Vitamin E? Tyrosine?)

  • Concentrates higher than forages in PUFA

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Ongoing Captive Nutrition Studies – Rhinos:

  • White Oak Browsing Rhino pellets – added St. Louis (n=1); others?

  • Busch Gardens – diet with increased soluble CHO, beet pulp (n=3 blacks)

  • Tannin feed additives: US and Europe – no updates submitted

  • Sumatran rhino feeding trial – Los Angeles – seasonal intake/digestion trials

  • Rhino Browse/Diet Database?

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Ongoing Nutrition Field Studies – Black Rhinos:

  • Stephane Helary – University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. N. Owen-Smith, advisor. IRF initially funded

    • Earthwatch project – Waterberg Plateau, Namibia, also examining South African sites

    • Quantifying Fe, tannins, minerals & natural chelators, possibly ascorbic acid

    • Feed plants, feces

    • Different ecosystems, different seasons

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IRF RFP 2005 - Priority Target Areas with Possible Nutrition Component(s):

  • Dietary/Nutritional links with disease or susceptibility

  • Dietary links with reproduction

  • Nutritional links with male sex skew

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