An increasing number of species are declining in the wild. Giraffes have suffered an estimated 36-40% decline in the past ten years and are now listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (Muller, 2016). Given this rate of decline, there is an urgent need for the development of conservation plans and practices for giraffes. However, giraffes have been understudied in relation to other large African mammals and even basic aspects of their behaviour and ecology are still unknown or misunderstood. Understanding a species’ social organisation and behaviour is critical to developing suitable conservation and management plans. In this thesis I provide a thorough investigation of giraffe social behaviour and the factors which influence association patterns and discuss how these may be related to fitness and impact upon the survival of the species. My results show that giraffes live in complex social systems which are composed of non-random associations, the patterns of which are influenced by age and sex of individual, behavioural state, reproductive state, and environmental factors such as disturbance and habitat structure. My results have contributed knowledge to understanding the complex social behaviour of giraffes and have demonstrated how generic conclusions about the behaviour of a species should not be drawn from studies of single populations. My study provides an important starting point from which to develop the comparative study of networks and determine the relative influence of environmental factors on network structure and provides comprehensive information that can be used for the management of giraffe populations in the wild.
|Date of Award||6 Nov 2018|
- The University of Bristol
|Supervisor||Innes C Cuthill (Supervisor) & Stephen Harris (Supervisor)|