The primary aim of the proposed study is to examine the efficiency
of iron and copper absorption in the black rhinoceros. In their
natural habitat, the black rhinoceros is a browser. In captivity,
the black rhino is fed more of a grazer diet.
It is our hypothesis that the black rhinoceros more efficiently
extracts and absorbs important dietary minerals, such as iron
and copper, than do grazing animals.
Increased mineral uptake may be the most important predisposing
factor to hemosiderosis and hemolytic anemia in this species.
We intend to use classical nutrition techniques, commonly used
in domesticated animals, to study the dietary absorption of minerals
in black rhinos. Specifically we will feed the indigestible marker,
chromium oxide (Cr2O3), until a steady state has been achieved
between intake and fecal excretion of marker. At that time we
will analyze fecal concentrations of chromium, iron, and copper
in the black rhinos.
Not only will data from this study be critical in determining
nutritional needs of the black rhinos, it may shed further light
onto the pathogenesis of hemosiderosis and hemolytic anemia in
the captive black rhino.