Grazing behaviour of the giraffe in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

The giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) is usually described as an exclusive browser, feeding only on shrubs and trees, preferably between 2 and 5 m above ground (Lamprey, 1963; McNaughton & Georgiadis, 1986; Ciofolo & Le Pendu, 2002). Although browsing seems to be an easier form of feeding for giraffes in terms of accessibility and vigilance (Young & Isbell, 1991), a few studies mention that the giraffe also ‘very occasionally’ feeds on grass (Pienaar, 1963; Du Toit, 2005). To be able to graze, a giraffe has to adopt the typical ‘drinking position’, where the forelegs are splayed out laterally, and sometimes the carpal joints are also flexed. In this position, the animals are particularly vulnerable to predators (Pe´riquet et al., 2010). In this note, we show that grazing, although not a core activity, is a recurrent event in a nutrient-poor environment such as Hwange National Park and suggest a possible function.

Last Updated
January 26, 2021
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