Ecology of Giraffa camelopardalis
Made popular by their long necks and distinctive camouflage coats, giraffes are the tallest
land animals in the world. Their incredible body gives them a very specific niche within the ecology of African savannahs and the Sahara desert. This essay will focus on the ecology of these non-territorial herbivores, primarily focusing different factors that affect giraffe herbivory including location, sex, and age; next, it will focus on the predator-prey relationships seen at waterholes in African savannahs between lions and large-mammalian prey like giraffes; and finally, it will concentrate on the competition, or lack thereof, that may influence giraffe character.
Typically giraffes live in African savannahs, which includes grassland and lightwood land, but studies have shown that their preferred area changes throughout the year. Not only does this biome give them plentiful trees upon which to eat, its natural color provides a beneficial backdrop for their spotted camouflage coats. On top of that, there are trees, but they are spaced out enough so giraffes are able to see potential prey like lions from afar with their very keen eyesight. A study published by Barbara Leuthold, that focused on giraffe behavior within the savanna, suggested that the vegetation densities indicated a clear preference for woody vegetation generally, and additional preference to riverside areas in the dry season. Leuthold’s research on seasonal distribution showed high levels of giraffe concentration near rivers in the dry season and trends of dispersion into the deciduous woodlands and away from rivers in the rainy season, (Leuthold, 2008).
On top of living in the African savannas, some giraffe populations also naturally live in deserts, while others have been introduced to coastal areas like the Eastern Cape in South Africa. Due to the giraffe population’s decline over the past century, the desert now represents the very edge of the species’ preferred range. Factors that have led to the declining giraffe population such as human encroachment, fragmentation, poaching, and disease are all expected to continue, and could soon drive giraffe’s out of the desert biome permanently, (Fennessy, 2004). In a study by Julian Fennessy, which focused on the ecology and behavior of giraffes that still occupy the desert biome, it was concluded that there is a marked difference in structure and dynamics in terms of variation of numbers, sex and age structure, herd structure, and densities when comparing giraffe populations living in savannas with those living in deserts. These variations could be due to differences in area size, aridity, availability of foliage, and human impacts. In her own words, “large home ranges correlated with low population density, reduced diversity of forage, and in bulls, increased search for receptive cows,” (Fennessy, 2004). Another study by M. Parker and R. Bernard, focused on the diet and ecological role of giraffes in...