Increased Inflammation and Decreased Insulin Sensitivity Indicate Metabolic Disturbances in Zoo-Managed Compared to Free-Ranging Black Rhinoceros (Diceros Bicornis)

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General and Comparative Endocrinology

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black rhinoceros, hemochromatosis, glucose, inflammation, insulin, iron overload


Animal Sciences | Anthropology


Black rhinoceros (rhinos) living in zoos express a host of unusual disease syndromes that are associated with increased morbidity and mortality, including hemolytic anemia, rhabdomyolysis, hepatopathy and ulcerative skin disease, hypophosphatemia and iron overload. We hypothesized that iron overload is a consequence and indicator of disturbances related to inflammation and insulin/glucose metabolism. The objectives of this study were to: (1) generate the first baseline information on biomarkers of inflammation (tumor necrosis factor alpha [TNFα], serum amyloid A [SAA]), insulin sensitivity (insulin, glucose and proxy calculations of insulin sensitivity), phosphate and iron stores (ferritin) using banked serum from free-ranging black rhinos; and (2) then compare serum biomarkers between zoo-managed (n=86 individuals) and free-ranging (n=120) animals. Enzyme immunoassays were validated for serum and then biomarker levels analyzed using mixed models while controlling for sex, age and year of sample collection. Concentrations of TNFα, SAA, insulin and insulin-to glucose ratio were higher (Pex situ conditions compared to free-living counterparts. Findings indicate that the captive environment is contributing to increased inflammation and decreased insulin sensitivity in this endangered species.


Elsevier Science