Fatty acid status in captive and free-ranging black rhinoceroses

The fatty acid (FA) patterns of plasma/serum triglycerides (TG), phospholipids (PL) and cholesteryl esters (CE) of captive and free-ranging black rhinoceroses were investigated. Free-ranging animals (n = 28) stemmed from four different regions.
Captive animals sampled included specimens from North American (n = 11) and three different European facilities (n = 6). The European animals were tested on 1–4 different diets, resulting in a total of 15 blood samples. Regardless of differences between the free-ranging animals from different regions, differences between captive and free-ranging animals were relatively uniform: captive animals had higher overall proportions of polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), due to levels of linoleic acid (LA, 18:2n6) that were drastically increased as compared to free-ranging animals. In contrast, levels of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, 18:3n3) were consistently lower on conventional zoo diets. n6/n3 ratios for TG, PL and CE were 1.6, 10 and 8 in samples from free-ranging animals, respectively, as compared to 4.1–16.3, 16–148 and 40–277 in samples from captive animals. There was a distinct correlation between the proportion of grain-based products (commercial concentrates, plain grains and bread) in the diets of the European animals and the measured levels of n6 PUFA. An animal from a facility with a very low proportion of grain products in the diet nevertheless had high LA readings, most probably due to the use of sunflower oil as 2% (dry matter basis) of its diet. One animal that received a high proportion of grass meal pellets due to an oral disease had increased ALA contents after the diet change. These results allow conclusions on the suitability of diets fed in captivity: the black rhinoceros is prone to several uncommon diseases that have been suspected to be linked to oxidative damage, possibly due to the disposition of this species to excessive iron storage. An unnatural dietary loading with PUFAs would exacerbate this problem. Additionally, n6 FAs are known as precursors of pro-inflammatory mediators, and their overrepresentation could therefore exacerbate any inflammatory processes. Therefore, the current practice of using grain-based feeds as major ingredients in captive rhinoceros diets is discouraged. Diet items containing ALA (a precursor of anti-inflammatory mediators) such as, fresh grass, fresh browse, the respective silages should be included at higher levels in diets for captive black rhinoceroses. Grass meal pellets, although a good source of ALA and linked with high levels of ALA in an animal of this study, must be chosen with care for black rhinoceroses due to their particular proneness for high iron contents.

Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition, volume 92, issue 3, 2008

Title: Fatty acid status in captive and free-ranging black rhinoceroses (Diceros bicornis)

Authors: M. Clauss, E. S. Dierenfeld, K. E. Bigley, Y. Wang, K. Ghebremeskel, J.-M. Hatt, E. J. Flach, O. Behlert, J. C. Castell, W. J. Streich and J. E. Bauer