Negligible hormonal response following dehorning in free-ranging white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum)

Samuel Penny, Rachel White, Lynne M. MacTavish, Dawn Scott, Angelo Pernetta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) is experiencing unsustainable poaching losses fuelled by a demand for horn. Increasingly, private and state reserves are dehorning their rhinoceros populations in an attempt to reduce poaching pressure. Rhinoceroses use their horns in social interactions as well as during resource access and so its partial removal as part of reserve management practices may adversely influence these behaviours. Physiological stress can correlate with animal welfare, reproductive state and health and thus acts as a useful indicator of these parameters. To establish whether dehorning causes a physiological stress response, glucocorticoid and gonadal steroid profiles of free-ranging white rhinoceroses were determined through the collection and analysis of faecal steroid metabolites before and after dehorning. Faecal corticoid profiles were not influenced by the number of occasions a rhinoceros had been dehorned or by the number of days that had elapsed since dehorning. Furthermore, there was no apparent suppression in the concentrations of testosterone or progesterone metabolites in males and females, respectively, after exposure to multiple dehorning procedures. These findings should increase wildlife managers’ confidence that dehorning does not negatively impact white rhinoceros physiology as measured hormonally.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbercoaa117
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalConservation Physiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Dec 2020


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