Exploring the behaviors and social preferences of a large, multigenerational herd of zoo-housed southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum)

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Brett Williams, Jennifer Campbell, Corinne Kendall, Jade Tuttle, Emily C. Lynch
Zoo Biology
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Abstract The zoo-housed southern white rhinoceros (SWR) population is of special concern due to their lack of consistent breeding success. An enhanced understanding of SWR social preferences could better inform management planning by promoting natural social relationships, which can positively affect their well-being. The large, multigeneration herd housed at the North Carolina Zoo provides an ideal opportunity to examine rhino sociality across different ages, kin types, and social groupings. Eight female rhinos’ social and nonsocial behaviors were recorded from November 2020 through June 2021 across 242 h. Activity budget analyses revealed strong seasonal and temporal variations in grazing and resting behaviors, with no stereotypic behaviors recorded. Bond strength calculations suggested that each female maintained strong social bonds with one to two partners. Beyond mother−nursing calf bonds, we found that the strongest social ties were maintained between calf-less adults and subadults in these dyads. Considering these findings, we recommend that management plans attempt to house immature females with calf-less adult females, as they may be necessary to the social landscape of immature females and, ultimately, improve their welfare.


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