Increased human settlement, land use changes, loss of migration corridors, habitat loss and fragmentation have affected habitat use by Masai giraffe in Athi-Kapiti plains ecosystem. The purpose of the study was to assess the factors affecting habitat use by Masai giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi) in the Athi-Kapiti plains ecosystem and to generate information for giraffe sustainable conservation and management. The specific objectives of the study were to assess past and present giraffe population, assess the relative abundance of giraffe food plants, and determine giraffe home ranges and to assess giraffe habitat use and preference in the Athi-Kapiti plains ecosystems. Total count method and review of secondary data on giraffe counts were used to assess giraffe population trends. Field observations using a pair of binoculars were used to determine giraffe population size, age class structures and sex ratios. Point centered quarter (PCQ) method was used to determine the relative abundance of giraffe food plants. Giraffe habitat use and preference were assessed through plot and transect vegetation sampling methods. Data was analysed using descriptive and statistical methods.
The fundamental results from the study included determination of giraffe population size, population trends, age class structures, sex ratios, distribution and densities in the Athi-Kapiti plains ecosystems. Other results included determination of ecosystem monthly and annual rainfall amounts and giraffe daily time budget. Results also showed no significant difference in habitat use by giraffes that used the habitat uniformly. Food items with high preference ratio (PR) values were more preferred by giraffes that utilized them proportionately to their availability. Morisita's (1976) food selectivity index (Lo) method was superior to Petrides (1995) and Ischwaran (1983) food item preference ratio (PR) method of testing food items preference by giraffe. There were significant differences between parental and non-parental giraffe home ranges in the study sites. Correlation of tree density and percentage browse by giraffe showed an inverse relation. Regression analysis showed a strong positive relation between tree density and percentage browse.
The study concluded that habitat loss, fragmentation, constriction and increase human settlement were the major factors affecting habitat use by giraffe in the Athi-Kapiti plains ecosystem. Giraffes exerted considerable browsing on their food items. Recommendations made were that human activities that led to giraffe habitat loss and fragmentation should be stopped and that migration corridors between ecosystems should be restored to improve giraffe genetic pools in the Athi-Kapiti plains ecosystems. Ecosystem approach form of management should be adopted for effective giraffe conservation.