Does illegal hunting skew Serengeti wildlife sex ratios?

In this article we show that the population of Serengeti Masai giraffes Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi is extremely female biased, particularly among newborns. Our results suggest that this might be a response to heavy illegal hunting and the continuous disturbance such activities cause on giraffes, as sex ratios were more female skewed in all age groups in areas with high risk of illegal hunting. Giraffes were also more vigilant and fled at longer distances in such areas. Such female skewed sex ratios have also been found in other Serengeti species such as the ostrich Struthio camelus, the impala Aepycerus melampus and the wildebeest Connochaetus taurinus. In all studies, the sex ratio was more female skewed in areas in which illegal hunting is common. We found that sex ratio in giraffe calves, particularly in areas with high risk of illegal hunting, were more female skewed than in subadults or adults, indicating a female biased sex ratio at birth. If wildlife species react to a constant human disturbance by conceiving female offspring, this might cause serious conservation challenges. Conservation managers must anyway take this into account when developing future hunting regimes, not only for giraffes but also for other ungulate species under constant stress. We discuss various hypotheses aiming at explaining the female biased sex ratio in giraffes. However, further studies are needed to disentangle the causes of the skewed sex ratio observed in our study.

Last Updated
January 26, 2021
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