Giraffe nursing behaviour reflects environmental conditions

in Behaviour
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Nursing behaviour is one component of mammalian life history strategy that demonstrates context-dependent flexibility within species. Wild giraffes live in groups and feed themselves over large area. In the zoo, giraffes are kept in enclosures with abundant food resources. We aimed to analyse whether the nursing behaviour of giraffes differs between the zoo and nature reserve and discuss which factor (food intake, presence of predators, population density) can explain the difference. We observed seven and four female–calf pairs in the Bandia reserve, Senegal, and in Prague Zoo, Czech Republic, respectively. Nursing bouts were less frequent and longer and calves were less successful in nursing solicitations in the reserve, as females there seemed to be more selective for nursing times and locations, likely due to presence of predators and differences in food intake. Allonursing occurred more frequently in the zoo which can be attributed to higher population density in captive conditions.

Giraffe nursing behaviour reflects environmental conditions

in Behaviour



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    The schema of nursing positions (1, antiparallel position; 2, perpendicular position; 3, parallel position). Direction of the arrow indicates the head of animal.

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    The difference in nursing duration between two different environments.

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    The difference in suckling success proportion of the calves between two different environments.

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    The difference in suckling position of the calf between the two environments.

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