In the context of a broader ecological investigation, food habits of giraffe were studied in Tsavo National Park (East). The only method employed was direct observation of feeding animals in the field. Each instance in which one animal fed on one individual plant was counted as one food record for this plant species; 4025 records are analysed.
A total of sixty-six plant species was found to be eaten, the great majority being trees and shrubs, with a few creepers and vines. There were marked seasonal differences in the diet of giraffe, deciduous trees, shrubs and vines being dominant in the green season, evergreen plants (partly in riverine forest) in the dry season. All the trees and larger shrubs common in the study area were eaten by giraffe, while few records for very small shrubs and none for herbs and grasses were obtained. An analysis of the available vegetation was made in part of the dry-season habitat, and for twenty species the frequency in the habitat was compared with the frequency in the giraffe's diet, revealing selection for or against certain species. Giraffe utilized the upper vegetation layers, where available, but overall c. 50% of all browsing was below 2 m above ground, i.e. within reach of smaller browsers.
Results of this study are compared with what is known on food habits of giraffe in other areas.
Possible competition of giraffe with other browsers and the relationship between giraffe and their habitat are discussed. Continued survival of giraffe, and other browsers, in Tsavo National Park depends primarily on (1) adequate control of fire, and (2) the impact of future vegetation changes on the amount and variety of available browse plants.