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Journal of the South African Veterinary Association

On-line version ISSN 2224-9435
Print version ISSN 1019-9128


NASR, Mary et al. Muscle tremors observed in white rhinoceroses immobilised with either etorphine-azaperone or etorphine-midazolam: An initial study. J. S. Afr. Vet. Assoc. [online]. 2021, vol.92, n.1, pp.1-3. ISSN 2224-9435.

Etorphine-azaperone is the most commonly used drug combination for chemical immobilisation of free-ranging white rhinoceroses, but causes several profound physiological disturbances, including muscle tremors. The addition of benzodiazepine sedatives, such as midazolam, has been proposed to reduce the muscular rigidity and tremors in immobilised rhinoceroses. Twenty-three free-ranging, sub-adult white rhinoceros bulls were darted and captured using a combination of etorphine plus either azaperone or midazolam. Skeletal muscle tremors were visually evaluated and scored by an experienced veterinarian, and tremor scores and distance run were compared between groups using the Wilcoxon rank sum test. No statistical differences were observed in tremor scores (p = 0.435) or distance run (p = 0.711) between the two groups, and no correlation between these variables was detected (r = -0.628; p = 0.807). Etorphine-midazolam was as effective as etorphine-azaperone at immobilising rhinoceroses, with animals running similar distances. Although the addition of midazolam to the etorphine did not reduce tremor scores compared to azaperone, it might have other beneficial immobilising effects in rhinoceroses, and further investigation is necessary to elucidate possible methods of reducing muscle tremoring during chemical immobilisation of rhinoceroses.

Keywords : white rhinoceros; muscle tremors; etorphine; midazolam; azaperone; immobilisation; muscle relaxation; butorphanol.

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