In captivity, black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) suffer from idiopathic skin lesions that may be linked to dietary deficiencies, in particular essential fatty acid deficiency (EFAD). Therefore, a study was undertaken from July 1995 to May 1997 to characterize the diet of captive D. bicornisin North American zoos and measure fat and fatty acid composition in zoo diet, and African and North American browses. Descriptions of all dietary items offered to black rhinos on a daily basis were compiled from 20 North American zoos; zoo diet contained (mean ± SE) 61 ± 2% hay, 28 ± 2% grain pellets, 6 ± 1% produce, and 5 ± 1% fresh browse, with hay and grain pellets together comprising nearly 90% of items offered. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis (GC-MS) was used to measure triacylglycerol equivalent (TAG), total fatty acids (TFA), and essential fatty acids (EFA) in zoo diet, and African and North American browses. North American browse contained more TAG and TFA than did zoo diet or African browse. Zoo diet contained more linoleic acid (18:2n6) and less linolenic acid (18:3n3) than either African browse corrected for degradation losses or North American browse, whether measured as weight percentage of dry sample or as weight percentage of TFA. In addition, the ratio of 18:2n6 to 18: 3n3 was significantly lower in both browses than in zoo diet. There are significant nutritional differences between the major dietary components of North American captive black rhinoceros diets and native African browses that warrant further exploration given the health problems associated with this animal in captivity.
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Vol. 38 • No. 1