Chemical capture is an essential tool in the management and conservation of white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum); however, cardiovascular responses in immobilized megaherbivores are poorly understood. Blood pressure and heart rate responses in rhinoceros immobilized with etorphine or etorphine plus azaperone, and the effects of subsequent i.v. butorphanol administration were investigated. Six white rhinoceros were used in a randomized crossover study design with four interventions: 1) etorphine i.m.; 2) etorphine plus azaperone i.m.; 3) etorphine i.m. and butorphanol i.v.; and 4) etorphine plus azaperone i.m., and butorphanol i.v. Etorphine resulted in hypertension and tachycardia in immobilized rhinoceros on initial measurements. Over the 25-min study period, blood pressures and heart rate declined. Heart rates were slower, although the rhinoceros were still tachycardic, and blood pressures lower during the whole study period in animals immobilized with etorphine and azaperone compared with those that received only etorphine. Butorphanol administration resulted in lower arterial blood pressures and heart rates in etorphine-immobilized rhinoceros. In rhinoceros immobilized with etorphine and azaperone, heart rate slowed following administration of butorphanol i.v., although blood pressures remained unchanged. Azaperone reduced hypertension associated with etorphine immobilization, but animals remained tachycardic. Administration of butorphanol to etorphine/azaperone-immoblized rhinoceros lowered heart rate to values approaching normal resting levels without altering blood pressure.
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