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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 tag nutrition advisory group
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
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?
q a from zookeeper survey thanks to dawn strasser4
Q/A from Zookeeper Survey (thanks to Dawn Strasser!!)
  • Specific foods NOT to feed?
  • Perennial ryegrass staggars
  • D toxicity?
  • Pregnancy changes in diet
diseases with possible nutritional links black rhino
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
research updates
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
minerals in rhinos

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)

mineral highlights
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
iron issues browsing rhinos
Iron Issues – Browsing rhinos
  • Captives & females higher
iron issues browsing rhinos10
Iron Issues – Browsing rhinos
  • Females higher, both sexes increase with age
iron issues browsing rhinos11
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
elevated free tyrosine in rhinoceros erytrhocytes

Elevated Free Tyrosine in Rhinoceros Erytrhocytes

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

Comp Biochem Physiol 138:105-109 (2004)

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?

tannins rhinos

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)

tannin binding salivary proteins in 3 rhino species
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
tannin binding salivary proteins in 3 rhino species results
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……..
tannin binding salivary proteins inducible in black rhinos
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
induction of tannin binding salivary proteins cont
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.
indian rhino nutrition zoo study

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)

aims of the study
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
zoo diets
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

  • 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)
  • 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
ca metabolism in rhinos
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
forages for rhinos
  • 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.
lucerne alfalfa can be problematic
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
mineral imbalances due to improper forages
Mineral Imbalances Due to Improper Forages?
  • Associated with lucerne (alfalfa) feeding – in both grazers & browsers
grass also problematic
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
pregnancy diets all rhinos
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
plasma vitamin e in free ranging black rhinos
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

vitamin e concentrations in black rhino browses
Vitamin E Concentrations in Black Rhino Browses

Ndondo et al., 2004

Dierenfeld et al., 1995

Ghebremeskel et al., 1991

vitamin e
  • 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
vitamin d toxicity an isolated problem in 2002
Vitamin D Toxicity – an Isolated Problem in 2002

Manufacturer very responsive, no diet problem isolated

Miller et al., summary, 2003

fatty acids in black rhino browses south africa
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

evidence of fa deficiency in black rhinos
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

fatty acid investigations zoo rhinos short long term
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

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
ongoing captive nutrition studies rhinos
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?
ongoing nutrition field studies black rhinos
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
irf rfp 2005 priority target areas with possible nutrition component s
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