Biological and environmental factors as sources of variation in nocturnal behavior of giraffe

Upon a drastic decline of the giraffe population in the wild, conservation efforts and therefore the role of zoos have become more important than ever. With their unique opportunities, zoos provide excellent conditions to study animal behavior, expanding the knowledge about the giraffe's behavior repertoire and their ability to adapt. This study therefore examined the nocturnal behavior of 63 giraffe living in 13 different EAZA zoos across Germany and the Netherlands. Giraffe were observed and videos recorded via infrared sensitive cameras during the winter seasons 2015–2018. The observation period spanned nightly from 17:00 to 7:00. Thus, 198 nights, with a total of 2772 h were recorded and analyzed. Linear mixed models were then used to assess potential biological and environmental factors influencing behavior during the dark phase. Results show that individual variables such as age, subspecies and motherhood determined nocturnal activity and sleep behavior most. Among the variables studied, husbandry conditions and environmental factors complying with EAZA standards had no influence on the giraffe's nocturnal behavior. By combining nocturnal activity analyses and an assessment of potential influencing factors, our findings present a holistic approach to a better understanding of captive giraffe behavior and allow for management implications