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Truter, A., 2021. The reproductive performance, demography and spatial ecology of an extralimital white rhinoceros population. Thesis presented to Rhodes University, pp. 1-111

Location: Africa - Southern Africa - South Africa
Subject: Reproduction
Species: White Rhino

Original text on this topic:
The white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) (hereafter rhino) is under threat of becoming extinct due to continued poaching for its horns. In South Africa and elsewhere in Africa private landowners have, over the last few decades, contributed to the conservation of various species, including rhinos, even in areas where they have not occurred historically (i.e., where they are extralimital). Unfortunately, very few studies have investigated the conservation contribution of extralimital white rhinos on private reserves to the overall meta-population and/or their reproductive performance. The first aim of my study was therefore to determine whether or not the white rhinos introduced to a private game reserve in the Eastern Cape Province in 1992 have been successful from a reproductive perspective. I calculated inter-calving intervals, age at first calving, conception period, sex ratio, fecundity and fertility rates for white rhinos over this 28-year period. The average annual population growth rate for the rhinos was 10%, which is higher than the recommended 5% by the Rhino Management Group. Trends in density-dependent parameters such as age at first calving and inter-calving intervals also indicated that my study population is still well below carrying capacity for white rhinos and is contributing positively to white rhino conservation in South Africa. The second aim of my study was to investigate home range size and vegetation preferences of white rhinos. Home ranges were mostly larger for all age groups compared to rhinos in their native range. Previously cultivated lands (dominated by several grass species) were preferred by all rhino age groups. The rehabilitation of these previous agricultural-based pastures has likely contributed to the successful introduction of the white rhino as an extralimital megaherbivore in the Eastern Cape. I conclude that although extralimital white rhino populations in the Eastern Cape can be successful from a reproductive perspective, their potential impact on the indigenous biodiversity of the region should be a key future research priority.

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