Immobilization and anesthesia of impala (Aepyceros melampus) has become a popular research theme. This demand is brought about by the increased need to immobilize and anesthetize impala and other medium-sized wild ungulates because of their increased value in game ranching and zoological collections. To improve our understanding of immobilization and general anesthesia in these species, it is paramount to be able to study them in a practical, safe research environment that does not cause harm or unnecessary stress to the animals. This study aimed to scrutinize our management and welfare practices and scientific methods of 15 wild-caught impala placed in captive confinement during a 16-wk intensive research project. The scientific methods of the project were scrutinized to identify procedures that attributed to morbidity and mortality. Indicators of impala welfare during captivity were monitored by documenting serial physical (body weight, coat condition), physiological (biochemistry and hematology), and psychologic (behavioral) aspects. Two impala suffered irreparable femoral fractures during darting and were humanly euthanized. One impala suffered cardiovascular collapse during immobilization and could not be resuscitated. The procedure of chemical capture had a morbidity and mortality rate of 14.8% and 4.4%, respectively. The impala maintained acceptable physical and physiologic parameters, including stable body weights, well-groomed coats, and values for total serum protein, serum creatinine, and hematologic parameters that were within reference ranges for the species. There were improvements in the impalas' psychological parameters, which included a decrease in the number of aggressive interactions (head butting and ramming) and an increase in the number of reciprocal allogrooming interactions. The monitored welfare indicators suggest adaptation to captivity. The study showed that impala could be successfully managed in captivity for 16 wk. However, scientific methods (namely darting) increased the risk of injury and caused fatalities.
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