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11 November 2022 Spatial constraints and seasonal conditions but not poaching pressure are linked with elevated faecal glucocorticoid metabolite concentrations in white rhino
Zoliswa N. Nhleko, Andre Ganswindt, Sam M. Ferreira, Robert A. McCleery
Author Affiliations +
Abstract

Context. Due to considerable declines in African wildlife populations, most large African mammals are managed inside protected areas. Protected areas come in various sizes, and have different environmental features, climates and management strategies (i.e. ‘hands-on’ or ‘hands-off’) that can influence an animals’ homeostasis. White rhinos (Ceratotherium simum simum) are found almost exclusively within protected areas where population sizes are driven by natural factors and poaching pressures.

Aims. Our aim was to understand the effect of natural and anthropogenic factors on the adrenocortical response of white rhinos within three protected areas. Specifically, we wanted to understand how poaching pressure, protected area size (<500 km2), season (wet and dry) and rainfall patterns were responsible for driving adrenocortical activity in white rhino.

Methods. To understand the relationship between rhino adrenocortical responses and different environmental and anthropogenic stressors, we quantified glucocorticoid metabolites in faecal samples (fGCM) collected from four populations within three protected areas (i.e. two small parks, one big park) during the wet and dry seasons.

Key results. We found differences in seasonal fGCM concentrations, with a 42% increase during the dry season, and no differences in fGCM concentrations between the high and low poaching areas. Additionally, we found fGCM concentrations in samples from the small parks were respectively 38% and 42% higher than in samples from the large park during both the dry and wet seasons compared.

Conclusions. Our results suggest that white rhinos may experience physiological stress in smaller parks, especially during the dry season when resources are limited.

Implications. By mitigating stress associated with reduced access to resources and spatial constraints, managers may better promote the viability of large mammals in small protected areas.

Zoliswa N. Nhleko, Andre Ganswindt, Sam M. Ferreira, and Robert A. McCleery "Spatial constraints and seasonal conditions but not poaching pressure are linked with elevated faecal glucocorticoid metabolite concentrations in white rhino," Wildlife Research 50(4), 292-300, (11 November 2022). https://doi.org/10.1071/WR22020
Received: 10 April 2021; Accepted: 2 October 2022; Published: 11 November 2022
KEYWORDS
Climate
fecal glucocorticoid metabolites
human activity
poaching
protected areas
season
stress
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