Black rhino must preferentially be darted from a helicopter as darting on foot can be extremely hazardous as they there are aggressive and unpredictable. This is compounded by the fact that their preferred habitat is dense bush. Vehicle access to immobilized animals may also be limited by the habitat.
Signs of induction include a slowing of pace, elevation of the head and a high-stepping action. At this point the animal cannot be turned and it will start running into obstacles, and can fall into gullies or over cliffs. The animal usually stops when it runs into an obstacle.
Handling of the immobilized animal
Cover the eyes with a blindfold when the animal is immobilized to prevent visual stimulation.
Rhino that are immobilized for any length of time should be rolled from one side to the other to prevent pressure ischaemia of the limbs.
Place the legs in a natural sleeping position as black rhino appear to be very sensitive to pressure ischaemia in sternal recumbency. Ideally rhino should be placed in lateral recumbency.
Although respiratory depression and hypoxia due to etorphine does not appear to be a significant problem in the majority of black rhino they must be closely monitored at all times. Animals can be maintained under opioid immobilization for several hours.
Body temperature should be monitored at regular intervals in the immobilized black rhino as overheating is often a serious problem. Particularly as these bulky animals tend to run long distances after being darted. Douse animals liberally with cold water if their body temperature appears to be rising.
Loading and “walking” of black rhino
The principles and techniques used are the same as for white rhino, however, the partial antidotes must be administered at much lower dose rates otherwise the animal may become too awake and uncontrollable.
Due to the volatile nature of black rhino people should never stand in front of an immobilized animal, especially as it is being loaded into a crate.
As for white rhino.
Very small doses of diprenorphine are used as a partial antagonist and higher doses of azaperone are generally used than for white rhino.
Naltrexone should never be administered to a black rhino being held in a crate.
Maintenance in holding facilities
As for white rhino with a few exceptions.
All animals are housed individually, except in the case of a cow and her calf.
Compared to white rhino, black rhino can be put into smaller pens from the outset, as they adapt more readily to captivity.
Animals must be fed browse initially, lucerne and antelope cubes can be added to their diet at a later stage. Anorexia and constipation are seldom a problem