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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: February 2014

4 - Social behaviour and populations


For reproductive behaviour and behaviour in zoos, see Chapters 9 and 10.

How social animals behave among themselves is of great interest to behaviourists, but also to those who oversee wildlife populations (Carter, 2009). For example, if a contagious disease is present in one individual, how that animal interacts with others will help a manager figure out how the disease might spread, and therefore how it might best be combatted. Or if a few individuals are going to be transported to another area, picking giraffe who are friends to travel together will ease this process.

Now that we know from DNA samples that most subspecies of giraffe have been isolated from each other for very long periods of time, and therefore may actually be separate species, it would be exciting to find whether these ‘species’ have unique social behavioural patterns too. This may be true, but we won’t know this any time soon. There are far too few studies of behaviour, each of which is incredibly labour-intensive and expensive. As well, it has already been shown, as we shall see in this chapter, that behaviour is shaped in part by local environments and by group composition. In this chapter it is assumed that giraffe of all races behave in more or less the same way.