Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Female Giraffes With Friends Live Longer, Study Finds

Animals
Female Giraffes With Friends Live Longer, Study Finds
Reticulated giraffes in Buffalo Springs National Reserve, Kenya. James Warwick / The Image Bank / Getty Images

A giraffe's life is a hard one, crowded by humans, stressed by habitat fragmentation and threatened by poaching. But for females, friends could make it better and longer, a recent study finds.


Over the past three decades, giraffe populations have declined by 30 percent, The Atlantic reported. Today, only 111,000 individuals remain. Forming close relationships with fellow giraffes, however, could increase a female's chances at survival, researchers found.

Led by Monica Bond at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, a team of researchers asked, "Do differences in the socio-ecological environment experienced by individuals influence their survival?" After studying giraffes in Tanzania for five years, their findings were published Wednesday.

So far, few studies have combined information on a giraffe's social life, non-social components and demographic data to better understand their chances of survival, the authors wrote. Their study, however, incorporates influences from a giraffe's natural environment and stressors from humans to better understand the benefits of social bonds.

"Grouping with more females, called gregariousness, is correlated with better survival of female giraffes, even as group membership is frequently changing," Bond told the University of Zurich.

Female giraffes form similar social bonds as humans do, proving to be beneficial for their ability to feed and rear their young, the University of Zurich reported.

"It seems to be beneficial for female giraffes to connect with a greater number of others and develop a sense of larger community, but without a strong sense of exclusive subgroup affiliation," Bond added, according to the University of Zurich. Giraffes that live more isolated lives, however, miss out on opportunities to learn about plentiful food sources and nearby predators, the authors wrote.

But female giraffes seek companions for more than just insight on the best food spots and local knowledge. The researchers found that when female giraffes formed close bonds with other females, they were able to manage their stress levels, often raised by harassment from male giraffes.

While poaching does indeed decline giraffe populations, growing human disturbance and habitat fragmentation are the biggest threats, The Atlantic reported.

"When the land is not open, it reduces the animals' ability to be flexible to change," Julian Fennessy, co-director and co-founder of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, said. "And change is certainly upon them," The Atlantic reported.

Combined stressors, like shorter rainy seasons and longer droughts brought on by climate change, as well as competition from nearby pastoralists for the same natural resources, impact giraffe survival, especially their reproductive success, The Atlantic reported.

But that's not it. Giraffes also suffer from a lesser-known risk.

In what Fennessy calls a "silent extinction," giraffes have long been overlooked by conservation groups, National Geographic reported, mainly because there are other endangered species in Africa, like elephants, rhinoceroses and chimpanzees that often get more attention from conservation groups. "Giraffes have suffered from surprising scientific neglect," the Atlantic reported, despite the adoration people have for the creature. "Few researchers have studied them in the wild, so even basic aspects of their lives remain mysterious."

Insight into a giraffe's ideal social life could help scientists and conservationists alike understand more about one of the planet's most distinct creatures, and help protect them before they have no friends left.

"This aspect of giraffe sociability is even more important than attributes of their non-social environment such as vegetation and nearness to human settlements," Bond told the University of Zurich.

An Edith's Checkerspot butterfly in Los Padres National Forest in Southern California. Patricia Marroquin / Moment / Getty Images

Butterflies across the U.S. West are disappearing, and now researchers say the climate crisis is largely to blame.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A wildfire burns in the Hollywood hills on July 19, 2016 in Hollywood, California. AaronP / Bauer-Griffin / GC Images

California faces another "critically dry year" according to state officials, and a destructive wildfire season looms on its horizon. But in a state that welcomes innovation, water efficacy approaches and drought management could replenish California, increasingly threatened by the climate's new extremes.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Wisdom is seen with her chick in Feb. 2021 at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Jon Brack / Friends of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge / Flickr / CC 2.0

Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.

Read More Show Less
Wind turbines in Norway. piola66 / E+ / Getty Images

By Hui Hu

Winter is supposed to be the best season for wind power – the winds are stronger, and since air density increases as the temperature drops, more force is pushing on the blades. But winter also comes with a problem: freezing weather.

Read More Show Less
Jaffa Port in Israel. theDOCK innovated the Israeli maritime space and kickstarted a boom in new technologies. Pixabay

While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.

Read More Show Less