Control of body temperature is critical to a successful anesthetic outcome, particularly during field immobilization of wild animals. Hyperthermia associated with exertion can lead to serious and potentially life-threatening complications such as organ damage (including myopathy) and death. Methods for monitoring core body temperature must accurately reflect the physiologic status of the animal in order for interventions to be effective. The goal of this preliminary study was to compare serial rectal and muscle temperatures in field-immobilized black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) and evaluate a possible association. Twenty-four free-ranging black rhinoceros were immobilized between February and March of 2010 in Ethosha National Park, Namibia. Pairwise comparisons showed a correlation of 0.73 (95% CI; 0.70–0.75) between rectal and muscle temperature measurements. Results from a multivariable model indicate that muscle temperature readings were, on average, 0.46°C (95% CI; 0.36–0.57°C) higher than rectal temperatures while adjusting for repeated measurements on the same rhinoceros, effect of duration of immobilization, and effect of ambient temperature on rhinoceroses' temperature readings. As immobilization time increased, muscle and rectal temperature values within an individual rhinoceros tended to equilibrate. The overall temperatures decreased by an average of 0.00059°C/min (95% CI; −0.0047 to −0.0035°C/min; P = 0.779). As the ambient temperature at time of immobilization increased by 1°C, the average rhinoceros temperature increased by 0.09°C (95% CI; 0.06–0.11°C, P < 0.0001). Higher body temperature creates a potential for cellular damage leading to complications that include myopathy. Methods for monitoring rectal, muscle, and ambient temperatures should be incorporated into anesthetic monitoring protocols for large ungulates, particularly under field conditions.
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