Background: Numerous factors like continuous habitat reduction or fragmentation for free-ranging giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis) as well as e.g. suboptimal housing conditions for animals in captivity might lead to behavioural alterations as part of the overall adaptation process to the changing living conditions. In order to facilitate current and future studies on giraffe behaviour, a comprehensive ethogram was compiled based on existing literature, as well as observations on giraffes in the wild (Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe; Entabeni Game Reserve, South Africa), and in captivity (National Zoological Gardens of South Africa, Pretoria).
Findings: The resulting ethogram lists 65 different behavioural patterns, which were described and grouped into seven categories: General activities, Abnormal repetitive behaviours, General interactions, Bull-Cow behaviour, Bull-Bull behaviour, Cow-Bull behaviour, Maternal behaviours, and Interactions by calves. The behaviours were further described regarding a presumed purpose, particularly with respect to social interactions and sexual behaviour. Contradictory descriptions from previous studies were considered and discussed in comparison with our own observations.
Conclusions: This ethogram provides a basis for current and future studies by suggesting a terminology which can be used for harmonizing behavioural observations, thus helping to facilitate comparability of future results. Subsequently, a better understanding of the behavioural ecology of giraffes in the wild as well as in captivity could aid future conservation efforts.