Translocation and dehorning are common and important practices for rhinoceros management and conservation. It is not known if dehorning causes a stress response or negatively affects rhinoceroses during transport. Twenty-three subadult wild Southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum) bulls were immobilized and translocated >280 km for population management reasons. Ten animals were dehorned at capture, and 13 animals were transported without dehorning. For transport, five dehorned and six nondehorned rhinoceroses were sedated with azaperone (62.38±9.54 μg/kg) and five dehorned and seven nondehorned rhinoceroses with midazolam (64.61±9.28 μg/kg). Blood samples were collected at capture, start of transport, and after 6 h of transport. Measurements included 10 physiologic variables: hematocrit, total serum protein, creatine kinase (CK), aspartate aminotransferase, gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), creatinine, urea, cholesterol, β-hydroxybutyrate, and glucose; and four stress response variables: cortisol, epinephrine, neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio, and leukocyte coping capacity. Using a linear mixed model, CK and GGT were higher in dehorned compared with nondehorned rhinoceroses. There were no significant differences in the other variables between the two groups. The likely cause of these differences is that dehorned animals spent more time in the crate before the start of transport than nondehorned rhinoceroses (3:11±0:54 h vs. 1:12±0:56 h, P<0.001). These results indicate that dehorning does not negatively alter the white rhinoceros’ physiologic and stress responses during translocation, supporting its use for antipoaching measures.

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