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Giraffe nursing behaviour reflects environmental conditions

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image of Behaviour

Nursing behaviour is one component of mammalian life history strategy that demonstrates context-dependent flexibility within species. Wild giraffes live in groups and feed themselves over large area. In the zoo, giraffes are kept in enclosures with abundant food resources. We aimed to analyse whether the nursing behaviour of giraffes differs between the zoo and nature reserve and discuss which factor (food intake, presence of predators, population density) can explain the difference. We observed seven and four female–calf pairs in the Bandia reserve, Senegal, and in Prague Zoo, Czech Republic, respectively. Nursing bouts were less frequent and longer and calves were less successful in nursing solicitations in the reserve, as females there seemed to be more selective for nursing times and locations, likely due to presence of predators and differences in food intake. Allonursing occurred more frequently in the zoo which can be attributed to higher population density in captive conditions.

Affiliations: 1: aFaculty of Tropical AgriSciences, Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, Kamýcká 129, 165 21 Prague 6–Suchdol, Czech Republic ; 2: bFaculty of Environmental Sciences, Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, Kamýcká 129, 165 21 Prague, Czech Republic

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