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Fewer than 4,500 black rhinoceros remain in the wild and only 92, representing two distinct subspecies, are managed in captivity in the United States for conservation purposes. A major concern with rhinoceros in human care is iron overload syndrome, a condition rarely seen in wild rhinoceros, and associated with many serious health disorders. To tackle this issue, researchers will analyze fecal samples from wild southern black rhinoceros to better understand their diet and gut composition (microorganism populations living in their intestinal tract). The team also will analyze serum metabolite composition, the study of small molecules in blood serum, to detect correlations between diet and health. Findings will provide much-needed reference data for southern black rhinoceroses in human care as well as inform improved diets and health monitoring to keep these valuable and charismatic animals healthy and thriving.

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Smithsonian Institution
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United States
Budhan Pukazhenthi, BVSc, PhD
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