Reproductive life history of Thornicroft’s giraffe in Zambia

Knowledge of the reproductive life history of giraffe in the wild is sparse. Giraffe have two fairly unusual reproductive patterns among large mammals: they can become pregnant while lactating, and calf mortality is extremely high. Longitudinal records are largely absent, so tracking reproductive parameters tends to combine information from captive and field studies. In this study, we examine longitudinal data obtained over a 33-year period in one population of Thornicroft’s giraffe in order to chart their reproductive careers. We found that age at first parturition was 6.4 years, or slightly later than in captivity. Giraffe bred throughout the year, with cows producing offspring on average every 677.7 days. About half of the calves died before one year of age, but death of a calf did not reduce interbirth interval. We conclude that the lifetime reproductive success of giraffe is more dependent on longevity and calf survivorship than on reproductive rate.

Last Updated
January 27, 2021
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