Failure of a Chemical Spray to Significantly Reduce Stereotypic Licking in a Captive Giraffe

The repetitive licking of nonfood substrates is a common stereotypic behavior in captive giraffes. In this study we attempted to reduce stereotypic licking in a Masai giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi) by applying a bitter chemical (marketed as a taste deterrent to prevent the unwanted licking and chewing of substrates) to the areas of the fence licked most frequently by the giraffe. We hypothesized that this treatment would reduce stereotypic licking. However, there were no significant overall changes in stereotypic licking following treatment with the chemical spray. Although licking of the treated area was observed to decrease, the behavior increased in nontreated areas. These results suggest that the underlying motivation driving the behavior was not affected by the aversive stimulus. Because stereotypic licking in giraffes may be based on a motivation to use their tongues in foraging, more effective techniques for reducing stereotypic fence-licking in giraffes may include increasing feeding duration by increasing the quantity, processing time, or distribution range of food.

Last Updated
January 26, 2021
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