Aerial translocation of captured black rhinoceroses (Diceros bicornis) has been accomplished by suspending them by their feet. We expected this posture would compromise respiratory gas exchange more than would lateral recumbency. Because white rhinoceroses (Ceratotherium simum) immobilized with etorphine alone are hypermetabolic, with a high rate of carbon dioxide production (VCO2), we expected immobilized black rhinoceroses would also have a high VCO2. Twelve (nine male, three female; median age 8 yr old [range: 4–25]; median weight 1,137 kg [range: 804–1,234] body weight) wild black rhinoceroses were immobilized by aerial darting with etorphine and azaperone. The animals were in lateral recumbency or suspended by their feet from a crane for approximately 10 min before data were collected. Each rhinoceros received both treatments sequentially, in random order. Six were in lateral recumbency first and six were suspended first. All animals were substantially hypoxemic and hypercapnic in both postures. When suspended by the feet, mean arterial oxygen pressure (PaO2) was 42 mm Hg, 4 mm Hg greater than in lateral recumbency (P=0.030), and arterial carbon dioxide pressure (PaCO2) was 52 mm Hg, 3 mm Hg less than in lateral recumbency (P=0.016). Tidal volume and minute ventilation were similar between postures. The mean VCO2 was 2 mL/kg/min in both postures and was similar to, or marginally greater than, VCO2 predicted allometrically. Suspension by the feet for 10 min did not impair pulmonary function more than did lateral recumbency and apparently augmented gas exchange to a small degree relative to lateral recumbency. The biological importance in these animals of numerically small increments in PaO2 and decrements in PaCO2 with suspension by the feet is unknown. Black rhinoceroses immobilized with etorphine and azaperone were not as hypermetabolic as were white rhinoceroses immobilized with etorphine.
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Vol. 57 • No. 2