Moving animals between institutions is an important aspect of population management, but could also be considered as a potential stressor, both in terms of the transport involved and the novel social and physical environment into which the rhino is moved.
Hormone analysis can also be used as a tool to investigate the role of potential stressors on adrenal activity, by measuring the steroid hormones glucocorticoids. The adrenal response to a stressor in the first instance is not a bad thing, but demonstrates that the animal is responding accordingly to a potential threat. However, if stressors are particularly severe, or are prolonged, then negative consequences on health and reproduction could result.
To investigate short-term or long-term effects of translocation, hormone analysis was conducted following the translocation of four male and five female black rhinos between European institutions between 2008 and 2012. Although an adrenal response to translocation was observed in some individuals following inter-zoo transfer, this was not apparent in all individuals. Furthermore, following these translocations, there was no evidence of oestrous cycle disruption; three out of five females were sexually mature and oestrous cycles continued post-translocation, one has since produced a calf. The remaining two females were not yet cycling prior to translocation, but one of those since commenced regular cyclicity and has now produced a calf. In males, no consistent differences in testosterone concentration were observed post-transfer, and one male sired a calf approximately twelve months post-transfer.
Behavioural indicators for stress are animals with head up and looking around or running with tail up, pacing during the night; which is evident by the night bedding being spread around the night area, abnormal amount of moving and pacing and aggression against fence, person etc.
There are several causes for stress in Black rhinos and these should be avoided:
inability to escape entirely from other Black rhinos
inability to display all of their natural behaviour patterns
stressed by their environment by public, machinery, etc.
lack of visual barriers
permanent separation of mother and calf before age of 18 months
Stereotypical behaviour mentioned by the experts are walking back and forth, caused by not enough hiding possibilities and running on one path only, it is not known what causes this behaviour.