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 natural...
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...in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya. African Journal of Ecology 16:1–20
Fennessy, J., Ecology of desert-dwelling giraffe Giraffa camelopardalis angolensis in northwestern Namibia. Sydney Journal of Biological Sciences 43:18-33
Parker, D. and Bernard, R., 2005. The Diet and Ecological Role of Giraffe ( Giraffa Camelopardalis ) Introduced to the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Journal of Zoology 267:203-208
Young, T. and Isbell L., 2010. Sex Differences in Giraffe Feeding Ecology: Energetic and Social Constraints. Ethology 87:79–89
Valeix, M. et al, 2009. Does the Risk of Encountering Lions Influence African Herbivore Behaviour at Waterholes?. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 63:83–94
O’Connor, D., 2013. Foraging Ecologies of Giraffe and Camels in Northern Kenya: Effects of Habitat Structure and Possibilities for Competition?. Journal of Tropical Ecology 3:247-253
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