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A review of the social behaviour of the giraffe Giraffa camelopardalis: a misunderstood but socially complex species

1. Until around 2000, giraffe Giraffa camelopardalis were believed to have no social structure. Despite a resurgence of interest in giraffe behaviour in around 2010, most studies are of isolated populations, making it difficult to draw general conclusions. Although it is now well established that giraffe social organisation is non-random, there is little consensus as to what influences preferred and avoided associations or the underpinning mechanisms. 2. We test two hypotheses: first, giraffe have a complex cooperative social system, exhibited

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Habitat heterogeneity and social factors drive behavioral plasticity in giraffe herd-size dynamics

Behavioral plasticity, or the mechanism by which an organism can adjust its behavior in response to exogenous change, has been highlighted as a potential buffer against extinction risk. Giraffes (Giraffa spp.) are gregarious, long-lived, highly mobile megaherbivores with a large brain size, characteristics that have been associated with high levels of behavioral plasticity. However, while there has been a recent focus on genotypic variability and morphological differences among giraffe populations, there has been relatively little discussion centered on behavioral flexibility

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Fission–fusion dynamics of a megaherbivore are driven by ecological, anthropogenic, temporal, and social factors

Fission–fusion dynamics hypothetically enable animals to exploit dispersed and ephemeral food resources while minimizing predation risk. Disentangling factors affecting group size and composition of fission–fusion species facilitates their management and conservation. We used a 6-year data set of 2888 group formations of Masai giraffes in Tanzania to investigate determinants of social group size and structure. We tested whether ecological (lion density, vegetation structure, and prevalence of primary forage plants), anthropogenic (proximity to human settlements), temporal (rainy or dry season), and

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Movement patterns and herd dynamics among South African giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis giraffa)

Giraffes reside in a fission–fusion social system, with sex, age proximity, kinship and home range overlap accounting for some of the variance in herd composition, while season, sex, age and time of day influence diet, home range size and distance travelled. To increase our knowledge of habitat use and fission–fusion herd dynamics, we placed GPS devices on eight adult female South African giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis giraffa) living in the Khamab Kalahari Nature Reserve (South Africa). We tested four predictions about

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Social networks, long-term associations and age-related sociability of wild giraffes

Long-term studies of sociality in wild animals are rare, despite being critical for determining the benefits of social relationships and testing how long such relationships last and whether they change as individuals age. Knowledge about social relationships in animal species that exhibit fission-fusion dynamics can enhance our understanding of the evolution of close social bonds in humans, who also have a fission-fusion social system. We analysed the social network of wild giraffes, Giraffa camelopardalis, in Etosha National Park, Namibia, from

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Herd composition, kinship and fission–fusion social dynamics among wild giraffe

A variety of social systems have evolved as a consequence of competition and cooperation among individuals. Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis sp.) societies are an anomaly because the dearth of long-term data has produced two polar perspectives: a loose amalgamation of non-bonded individuals that sometimes coalesce into a herd and a structured social system with a fission–fusion process modifying herd composition within a community. We analysed 34 years of data collected from a population of Thornicroft’s giraffe (G. c. thornicrofti, Lydekker 1911)

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