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Home » Archive » 2021 » Veterinary Session

Veterinary session

Artificially stimulated vigilance response in free roaming White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum)
Momberg Stephen - year 5
University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest, Department of Physiology and Biochemistry
Supervisor: Dr. István Tóth

Abstract:

Animals form groups to increase cumulative vigilance and therefore decrease predation risk. White Rhinos have complex and inconsistent social structures, and the formations of groups are only temporary. Females, together with their calves may form groups with males or sub-adults to decrease predation risk. The aim of study was to determine if vigilance is affected by group size, calf age and the presence of males, different habitats, other antelope species in proximity, time of day and the distance of a focal animal from possible thread. This study was conducted on free roaming white rhinos in the Free State, South Africa. Digital recorded distress calls were played at varying distances to white rhinos in different vegetation densities. Body orientation, head position as well as ear and tail movements were recorded as an indication of alertness. Alert time as well as flight distance, as a function of acute stress reaction, were also recorded. Vigilance decreased with an increase in group size. Solitary mothers with calves showed an increase in alert time compared to mothers in groups. Vigilance of mothers also decrease with an increase in calf age. The presence of males with larger horns also reduced vigilance of mothers with younger calves but increased vigilance in mothers with older calves. The habitat and time of day both had a highly significant difference on the alert time of the rhinos. Antelope presence and distance from the focal animal had no effect on the vigilance nor the time such animal stays alert. This study formed a baseline for the factors effecting vigilance in rhino and the possibility that dehorning might affect the behaviour of rhino.



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