Original Research

Pulmonary gas exchange and acid–base status during immobilisation of black rhinoceroses (Diceros bicornis) in Zimbabwe

Åsa Fahlman, Anna Edner, Sandra Wenger, Chris Foggin, Görel Nyman
Journal of the South African Veterinary Association | Vol 87, No 1 | a1328 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jsava.v87i1.1328 | © 2016 Åsa Fahlman, Anna Edner, Sandra Wenger, Chris Foggin, Görel Nyman | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 August 2015 | Published: 02 December 2016

About the author(s)

Åsa Fahlman, Department of Clinical Sciences, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden
Anna Edner, Department of Clinical Sciences, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden
Sandra Wenger, Clinic for Zoo Animals, Exotic Pets and Wildlife, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zürich, Switzerland
Chris Foggin, Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Görel Nyman, Department of Clinical Sciences, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden


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Abstract

When immobilising wildlife, adverse side effects can include hypoxaemia, acidosis and hypertension. Pulmonary gas exchange and acid–base status were evaluated during immobilisation of 25 free-ranging and one boma-held black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) in Zimbabwe. The effect of different body positions on arterial oxygenation was evaluated. A combination of the following drugs was used: an opioid (etorphine or thiafentanil), azaperone and an a2 -adrenoceptor agonist (detomidine or xylazine). Respiratory and heart rates, rectal temperature and pulse oximetry–derived haemoglobin oxygen saturation were recorded. Serial arterial blood samples were analysed immediately in the field. Marked hypoxaemia and hypercapnia were recorded in immobilised free-ranging black rhinoceroses. Arterial oxygenation was higher during sternal compared to lateral recumbency. Most rhinoceroses developed acidaemia of respiratory and metabolic origin. Initially high lactate concentrations in free-ranging rhinoceroses decreased during immobilisation. Pulse oximetry was unreliable in the detection of hypoxaemia. Positioning in sternal recumbency and routine use of oxygen supplementation are recommended in the management of immobilised rhinoceroses as measures to improve arterial oxygenation.

Keywords

wildlife; U.S: Fish and immobilisation; rhinoceros; hypercapnia; hypoxaemia; oxygen

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