Evaluation of hand-rearing formula for greater Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis)


Gaffney M, Schlegel ML. 2011. Evaluation of hand-rearing formula for greater Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis). In Ward A, Coslik A, Maslanka M, Eds. Proceedings of the Ninth Conference on Zoo and Wildlife Nutrition, AZA Nutrition Advisory Group, Kansas City, MO.


Since opening in May 1972, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (historically known as the San Diego Wild Animal Park) has hand-raised a number of rhinoceros calves, including southern white (Ceratotherium simum simum), black (Diceros bicornis michaeli) and greater Indian (Rhinoceros unicornis). In order to improve success rates and generate appropriate protocols with any handreared neonate species, it is important to document each animal’s daily status and changes implemented to husbandry practices with each experience. Milk formula composition and consumption, solid food intake, body weights, and fecal output and consistency are all closely monitored by animal care staff. Rhinoceros milk is more dilute compared to other ungulate species. It is low in solids and proteins, very low in fat and high in sugar (Oftedal, 1984; Robbins, 1993). Greater Indian rhinoceros samples collected from one animal during mid-lactation at 30, 37, and 44 days postpartum contained 9.81% total solids (TS); 14.2% crude protein (CP); 14.2% fat, and 77.5% lactose, on a dry matter basis (DMB) (Oftedal, 1984). A blend of fresh non- and low-fat cow’s milk is suitable to use as a replacement for rhino milk. Lactose (powdered, edible grade) is added to the formula to increase the milk sugar content, and because cow’s milk is low in iron, a liquid iron supplement (Vi-sorbin or Lixotinic, Pfizer Animal health, New York, NY 10017) was added. For the white and black rhino calves that have been hand-raised previously, during the first 3.5 months, the formula is composed of 29 parts non-fat cow’s milk, 9 parts low-fat cow’s milk, 1 part lactose, and 1 part water (NFC:LFC:Lactose:Water 29:9:1:1) by weight (Blakeslee and Zuba, 2002). Nutrient composition of the fore-mentioned formula is 11.39% TS; 28.1% CP; 2.6% fat; and 49.4% lactose, on a DMB. (Wagner and Edwards, 2001) compared to findings from Nath et al. (1993) (study, the hand-raised calves’ milk formula is higher in solids, and lower in crude protein, fat, and lactose, on a DMB. To approximate changes in milk composition observed in rhinoceros during early, mid- and late-lactation, (Oftedal, 1984) the water portion in the formula is increased at specific points during the hand-rearing process (Wagner and Edwards, 2001). The result is lower percent solids, without major changes to the remaining major nutrients; total solids gradually decrease from 11.39% (birth to 3.5 months) to 9.62% (15 months to weaning at approximately 18 months). This paper summarized the effectiveness of a handrearing protocol developed for black and white rhinoceros with four greater Indian rhinoceros born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park between 28-Nov-01 and 21-Dec-08.

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