A new study by Bristol University has shown how little we know about giraffe behavior and the environment in general.
It is generally accepted that the size of animal groups increases when there is a danger from predators. Since larger groups reduce the risk of individual deaths, there are “many eyes” to identify any potential risk, threat.
Now, in the first study of its kind, Bristol University student Zoya Muller from the Department of Biological Sciences found that this does not apply to giraffes and that the size of giraffes groups does not depend on the presence of predators.
Zoya Mueller said: “It’s amazing, and it underscores how little we know about even the most basic aspects of giraffe behavior. This study explains how the group behavior of giraffes differed in response to numerous factors such as predation risk, habitat type, and characteristics of individuals.
Habitat type had some influence on group size, but the main effect on herd size was in the behavior of adult females, which were found in smaller groups when they had newborn giraffes.
This contradicts another popular belief that giraffe females form large groups to collectively take care of their offspring, a study published in the journal of zoology. The first evidence is presented that in reality, it is the other way around.
Populations of giraffes have decreased by 40 percent in the last 30 years, and it is now believed that there are less than 98,000 animals left in the wild. In recognition of their dramatic decline in wildlife, they have recently been listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Species as a species threatened with extinction.
Zoya Muller added: “This study adds another important piece to the puzzle of understanding how giraffes live in the wild.
Giraffes are poorly understood as a species
“Giraffes are an endangered species suffering from an ongoing recession across Africa, and this study highlights how they are not actually studied as a species. We can only effectively manage and preserve giraffes if we have a proper understanding of their behavior and ecology, as we have just begun to do.
“Despite their fame, giraffes have not been sufficiently studied compared to other popular African mammals. “A common misconception is that giraffes are ‘everywhere’ in Africa, but recent studies have revealed the rapidly declining nature of their population.
“Their recent inclusion on the IUCN Red List as ‘vulnerable’ is a valuable step towards recognizing their potential for extinction, and more research is needed to understand the threats and challenges they face in the wild.
The next step in this study will be to replicate results elsewhere in Africa. This is one example from East Africa, and more research is needed to see if the same effects are observed in other giraffe populations.
The results can be used to understand the social changes in their groups and the impact of their habitat and ecology on their populations. And it is possible that the extinction of such an amazing species can be prevented.