Saito, M., Matsunaga, M., Fukuizumi, H. et al. 2023. Factors affecting captive female giraffe stress response: Male presence, small enclosure, and low temperature. Zoo Biology 42(5), 632–643.

To improve animal welfare based on suitable social housing conditions, it is important to understand the factors that trigger high-stress responses. Wild giraffes live in a fission–fusion society and males and females are rarely in the same herd for a long period. The captive condition of belonging to a herd with the same individuals for months or years is uncommon in nature. To understand the effect of male presence on female stress levels, fecal glucocorticoid metabolite (fGCM) levels and social interactions in two captive female giraffes were investigated. Additionally, the effect of enclosure size and temperature on fGCM level and social interactions were examined. The results showed no significant difference in the fGCM levels of females based on male presence. The frequency of agonistic behavior by the dominant female toward the subordinate female was significantly increased when a male was present. The subordinate female was significantly less likely to approach the dominant female and showed decreased affiliative and agonistic interactions toward the dominant female when a male was present. The frequencies of agonistic interactions between females were higher in the small enclosure regardless of male presence. Low temperature triggered higher fGCM levels and increased agonistic interaction in an aged female. The findings of this study suggest that these multiple factors should be considered individually to promote the welfare of captive giraffes.

Animal Type