"Like all herbivores, giraffes need to find quality food to survive, but also need to avoid lions, or at least see them coming," said Monica Bond, PhD candidate from the University of Zürich and lead author of the paper. "Giraffes in our huge, unfenced study area can choose from among many different places to spend their time -- places with different kinds of trees and bushes, places deep inside protected parks, or places closer to farming towns or ranchlands where people live. There are lots of options in this landscape, including fewer lions outside the parks versus inside. So, we wondered how do these options influence giraffe grouping behavior?"
The study found that groups composed of only adult giraffes were food-focused and not affected by predation risk. These adult groups formed the largest groups -- up to 66 individuals -- in the rainy season when food is plentiful, but formed smaller groups during the dry season when food is harder to find. In contrast, predation risk was a very important factor influencing groups of giraffes with calves.
Giraffe - Calves - Lions - Carnivores - Adults
"Giraffe calves are vulnerable to being killed by lions and other carnivores, while adults are typically large enough to escape predation," said senior author Barbara König, professor at the University of Zürich. "We were testing hypotheses about mother and calf behavior to see if their strategy was for calves to hide in thick bushes to avoid predators, be in the open to see predators coming, or be in large groups for many eyes and lower individual risk."
The researchers showed that in areas with the most lions, groups with calves were found more often in dense bushes than in open grasslands, and that those groups were smaller in size. This observation supports the idea that giraffe mothers and calves have a strategy of hiding in dense...
Wake Up To Breaking News!
It just doesn't get bettere than this...