Tactile encounters in a herd of captive giraffe

The behavior of the members of the herd of 18 giraffes at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia, was studied for 5 months. The individuals were tolerant of each other, seldom fighting, not even over a receptive female. Sexually active males were the most active in initiating encounters. Calves showed little interest in the adult members of the herd. The 24-year-old male Ml, formerly the dominant male, seldom interacted with the other animals. Nosing and licking were the most common types of encounters, carried out especially by the mothers on their young and by the two active males. Rubbing occurred mostly between adults, with the active males often involved. Hitting another giraffe with the head was usually done by the males. the necking sessions were always between one female and a male, although such sparring in the wild never includes females. Sniffing genitalia was virtually restricted to the males, who presumably wanted to determine if a female was in heat. Flehmen or lipcurl was quite common, usually by a male to the urine of a female, especially if the female was in heat. Urine-licking was more usual than Flehmen in the adult females and the calves. Sucking was only initiated by a mother’s own calf, although other calves and adults usually then joined the calf in sucking. Each giraffe shared branches of leaves with other giraffes. the behavior of these giraffes is compared briefly with that of wild giraffes and other captive ungulates.

Last Updated
January 27, 2021
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