Habitat Use and Behavioural Ecology of Rhinoceros unicornis in the Newly Renovated Outdoor Enclosure of the Zoological Garden Basel.
Department of Environmental Sciences, Section of Conservation Biology, Universität Basel
Leitung: Prof. Bruno Baur
The endangered Indian Rhinos (Rhinoceros unicornis) in captivity often suffer from feet problems due to hard soil substrates. In Zoo Basel, the rhino exhibit was renovated in order to obtain a mixed-species exhibit with the theme "Asia" and to meet modern husbandry requirements (suchz as soft natural soils, generous water basins and wallows and enrichment objects). Together with three rhinos (one male, two females) live two Asian Small-Clawed Otters and two Chinese Muntjaks.
The aim of this Master Thesis was to study the influence of the (spring-summer) seasonality and the time of day as well as the number and behaviour of the visitors on the habitat use and the behaviour of the three rhinos. The locations and behaviours of the animals were therefore recorded with the instantaneous scan sampling method during four periods (from April until August 2008) resulting in a total of 240 observation hours.
The results showed an influence of the time of day as well as the (spring-summer) seasonality on both the habitat use and behaviour of the animals. There were considerable differences among the individuals. For instance spent the bull more time with orientation behaviour, and the younger female accounted for most of the locomotion behaviour. In general, the animals spent more time bathing when temperatures were high and resting was more pronounced during mornings and midday. All animals preferred the silica sand as substrate type, followed by the wood chips substrate (for the cows).
Visitors had an influence as well; especially the cows reacted to peak visitor times and high numbers of loud visitors by spending more time at locations at a far distance to the visitors. Jaffna spent a very high percentage of time at far distances to the visitors at all times, independent of their number and behaviour.
Sociality among the rhinos was, of course, mainly performed between the cows and while resting or bathing. Inter-species interactions were rarely observed; in most cases the female otter and the rhinoceros bull were involved.
To conclude, general tendencies could be identified, such as that the animals spent more time bathing when it was warmer or that the silica sand substrate was visited preferentially. But, owing to a strong individual response to the parameters and to the low number of individuals, one should be careful with generalization of the observations.