University of Central Florida Undergraduate Research Journal - Social Behavior in a Herd of Captive Male Giraffes
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Social Behavior in a Herd of Captive Male Giraffes

By: Patrick Ziarnowski and Kaidi Fenrich | Mentor: Frank Logiudice


As zoos segregate giraffes by sex to prevent unwanted breeding, specific patterns of agonistic behaviors and male-male sociosexual behavior may emerge even without the contentious resource of reproductive females. This study also illustrates the possibility of social preferences among male giraffes and potentially other artiodactyl species. Additionally, this study is the first to investigate agonistic and affiliative behaviors among individual male giraffes in the captive setting.

The frequency of ostensible sociosexual behaviors and agonistic behaviors appears to be greater among captive male giraffes than in their wild counterparts. This is partly on account of an increase in interactions due to the size to the enclosure available relative to the vastness of habitat in the wild. The frequency of Emba’s behavior toward Rafiki—including anogenital sniffing, persistent following, and standing tall behind—appears to be a result of the conditions of captivity, including the lack of cows, and may be a novel expression of dominance, as it frequently accompanied hitting, to which Rafiki commonly responded by avoiding Emba. Our observations suggest male giraffes may have social preferences not strictly related to the dominance hierarchy. These preferences may be due in part to familiarity, as it may differ among zoo animals due to variable arrival times. Other undetermined factors may contribute to social preferences and consequently impact interactions among giraffes.


We would like to thank the staff at the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens for permission to conduct this study and for all the assistance provided, especially by Stephanie Williams. We would also like to thank Dr. Meredith Bashaw and Dr. Anne Dagg for their comments and support.

Appendix A >>