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23 November 2023 Survival of Young Black and White Rhinoceroses in Relation to Rainfall
Latoya Ndlovu, Jason P. Marshal, Annemieke C. van der Goot
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Droughts have become more prevalent in recent years, causing problems for large herbivores such as the black (Diceros bicornis) and white (Ceratotherium simum) rhinoceros, whose populations are influenced by variation in climatic conditions. This variation acts primarily through the effects of rainfall on forage availability but acts differently on browse or grass. Consequently, browsing black rhinos and grazing white rhinos might show differing responses to changes in rainfall. Moreover, young large herbivores have a more limited capacity to survive environmental stressors than do adult animals that are more resilient to environmental variation. Thus, our aim was to investigate the relationship between rainfall and the survival of young (<3 years old) black and white rhinos at Lapalala Wilderness Nature Reserve, South Africa. Using stratified Cox models, we found that both species had higher survival with more rain, but the effect was more similar than expected given the differences in diets. Moreover, there was evidence of an effect of age class for white rhinos but not for black rhinos. Additionally, most rhinos that died did so during the dry season when scarce forage and limited fat reserves likely constrained their ability to tolerate periodically low-quality diets. Despite the effect of rainfall operating through substantially different plant growth forms, young animals of both rhino species showed sensitivity to variation in rainfall that could ultimately affect population abundance and conservation status.

Latoya Ndlovu, Jason P. Marshal, and Annemieke C. van der Goot "Survival of Young Black and White Rhinoceroses in Relation to Rainfall," African Journal of Wildlife Research 53(1), (23 November 2023).
Received: 4 August 2023; Accepted: 8 November 2023; Published: 23 November 2023
Ceratotherium simum
climatic variation
Diceros bicornis
Lapalala Wilderness Nature Reserve
resource variability
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