Social behaviour in captive reticulated giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata): Analysis of enclosure use and social interactions between giraffes housed at Whipsnade Zoo
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Wild giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) herds have been described as random associations of individuals, but recent research has suggested that giraffe do form social bonds and have a complex social structure. The aims of this investigation were to determine whether a group of three captive giraffe associated randomly or patterned their behaviour and proximity in a way that suggests social relationships. Also to analyse how the giraffe use their enclosure in order for the zoo to develop the enrichment program to encourage the giraffe to use the enclosure more equally. Index of association and maintenance of proximity were used to analyse the social interactions. SPI and Chi Squared (goodness of fit) tests were used to determine the enclosure usage. Mother- son pairs and pairs with large age differences between members interacted and associated most often. Areas of the enclosure such as the inside, concrete area, and sand area were used more than expected; on the other hand areas such as grass areas were used less than expected; this is because these areas contain no resources. The social structure of this captive group is influenced by social relationships between individuals, especially mother and son. It is suggested that the social behaviour between wild individuals should be examined more closely in order to improve the welfare of giraffes in captivity.
Perry, S. (2011) 'Social behaviour in captive reticulated giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata): Analysis of enclosure use and social interactions between giraffes housed at Whipsnade Zoo', The Plymouth Student Scientist, 4(2), p. 50-65.