Behavioral Effects of a Death on a Group of Giraffes
Klinger, Aubrey L.
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The group structure of the giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) is loose and members are ever changing, unless the group is maintained in a captive environment. Attachments among these animals are rare, even in a small group, and have been studied by separating pairs of individuals and recording their subsequent behavior. A study at Zoo Atlanta showed that contact behavior, stereotypical activity such as object manipulation, and activity in general for two female giraffes all increased after removing the resident male (Tarou et al., 2000). This study examined the behavior of seven Masai Giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi) at the Houston Zoo, following the death of an adult female giraffe. Data were collected on the giraffes' behaviors before and after the death, using instantaneous scan sampling, which involved recording frequency of activity, social and solitary behaviors, and proximity of one giraffe to another, at regular intervals of one minute. After the death of the adult female, the group of seven Masai Giraffes remaining exhibited a decrease in stereotypical behaviors. Affiliations among females increased, but not significantly. Therefore, our hypothesis, which was founded upon a previous study in which affiliations and stereotypical behaviors increased, was only supported by our observations of increased affiliations. Our hypothesis that proximity would increase among giraffes was supported by the observations. Additionally, a variety of other behaviors were significantly affected by the death of the adult female. This leads to the possibility that giraffes may have some capability of mourning. Further study is needed to have an understanding of the variables involved in the giraffes' response to death.