Behaviour Classification on Giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis) Using Machine Learning Algorithms on Triaxial Acceleration Data of Two Commonly Used GPS Devices and Its Possible Application for Their Management and Conservation

Averting today’s loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services can be achieved through conservation efforts, especially of keystone species. Giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis) play an important role in sustaining Africa’s ecosystems, but are ‘vulnerable’ according to the IUCN Red List since 2016. Monitoring an animal’s behavior in the wild helps to develop and assess their conservation management. One mechanism for remote tracking of wildlife behavior is to attach accelerometers to animals to record their body movement. We tested two different commercially available high resolution accelerometers, e-obs and Africa Wildlife Tracking (AWT), attached to the top of the heads of three captive giraffes and analyzed the accuracy of automatic behavior classifications, focused on the Random Forests algorithm. For both accelerometers, behaviors of lower variety in head and neck movements could be better predicted (i.e., feeding above eye level, mean prediction accuracy e-obs/AWT: 97.6%/99.7%; drinking: 96.7%/97.0%) than those with a higher variety of body postures (such as standing: 90.7–91.0%/75.2–76.7%; rumination: 89.6–91.6%/53.5–86.5%). Nonetheless both devices come with limitations and especially the AWT needs technological adaptations before applying it on animals in the wild. Nevertheless, looking at the prediction results, both are promising accelerometers for behavioral classification of giraffes. Therefore, these devices when applied to free-ranging animals, in combination with GPS tracking, can contribute greatly to the conservation of giraffes.

Last Updated
March 25, 2021