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J Comp Psychol. 2007 Feb;121(1):46-53.

The structure of social relationships among captive female giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis).

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  • 1Conservation and Research for Endangered Species, Zoological Society of San Diego, San Diego, CA, USA.


Giraffe herds have been characterized as random associations of individuals, but recent evidence suggests giraffe have a more complex social structure. The authors formulated 3 hypotheses designed to evaluate whether a herd of captive giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) associated randomly or patterned their behavior and proximity in a manner indicative of social relationships. Affiliative interaction, proximity, and nearest neighbors for 6 captive female giraffe living in a large outdoor enclosure were analyzed, and all three measures were nonrandomly distributed, indicating female giraffe had social preferences. Furthermore, preferences were consistent across measures and time, suggesting that adult female giraffe maintain relationships. Mother-daughter pairs and pairs with large age differences between members interacted and associated most often. The social structure of this captive herd is influenced by social relationships between individual adult females, and the social behavior of individual females should be examined more closely in the wild.

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