Evaluating the social structure of captive Rothschild’s giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi): Relevance to animal management and animal welfare

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Jack Lewton, Paul E Rose
Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
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Social network analysis (SNA) is useful for evaluating management zoo regimes to ensure that any fitness benefits of sociality are preserved in captive-housed groups. This paper explores the association patterns of 13 giraffes housed at Longleat Safari Park, UK. Wild giraffes exhibit a fission–fusion social system with preferential bonding. As zoo-housed giraffes are common, they are excellent study subjects for using SNA to investigate key aspects of sociality within a managed social environment. Social bonds were assessed over different seasons and data from two study periods (2011 and 2015) were analyzed to see consistency of “social type” (i.e., more social or more solitary). Associations showed the occurrence of consistent preferential bonds between named individuals but time of year influenced the patterns of social bonds. Female-female bonds and female-offspring bonds appeared to be strongest. For animals present in 2011 and 2015, differences in time spent socializing between years were apparent. Results suggest that giraffes may be flexible in their choice of social partner and zoo-managed herds should include a range of individuals from which each animal can choose a preferred associate.


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