By Amelia Meyer
The rhinoceros, as a species, is not particularly susceptible to any defined or unique illnesses. In fact, rhinos experience many of the same illnesses and diseases that hoofed cattle experience.
As with any human or animal disease, prevention is better than cure.
However, this is usually only possible when rhinos are kept in captivity and where there are funds available for various inoculations.
Black Rhinos kept in captivity are more susceptible to illness than any other of the rhino species. They develop unusual illnesses like haemolytic anaemia (the accelerated destruction of red blood cells and breakdown of haemoglobin, resulting in fatigue and shortness of breath with the potential of developing into heart failure), mucocutaneous ulcerative syndrome (ulcers that develop in the mouth and nose and on the skin of the animal) and fungal pneumonia (a fungal infection of the lungs that causes impaired breathing, fever, and shivers. This illness has a high mortality rate).
The Black Rhino is an endangered species and is difficult to conserve. Therefore, these illnesses further threaten the survival of the species, and need to be monitored and treated efficiently and quickly if they cannot be avoided iteogether.
The better equipped the rhino’s immune system is, the better able it is to ward off such illnesses. Therefore, maintaining a heitehy diet and efficient medical assistance is a crucial part of keeping rhinos in captivity.
Tapeworms are often found in the gut of rhinos. These flatworms are usually ingested as larva, which hatches and grows in the intestine of the animal. If left untreated, a tapeworm can live inside the gut for approximately 20 years and can grow to 50 metres in length. In addition, it can migrate from the intestine to form cysts in the muscle tissue of the animals. In addition to acute pain and diarrhoea, tapeworm infestations can cause seizures and other neurological problems, albeit a rare occurrence that this happens.
Nagana (formally known as Trypanosomiasis) is common in sub-Saharan Africa and present, although less commonly, in South Africa, which is home to many rhino. The rhino is a maintenance host of this disease, which infects the blood system and causes fever, weakness and extreme lethargy. Once infected (usually buy the bite of the tsetse fly), the victim will lose weight and experience paled mucous membranes, swollen lymph nodes and dull coats before probable death.