Social distancing in giraffes?

Updated: Feb 6, 2023

In these troubled times, we are revisiting ‘historical’ data – our giraffe data from 2016. After identifying the individuals (see previous blog post in November 2019 here), we started to look at which individual was seen where and with whom…

The image shows a coloured circle for each individual, with the colours representing the proportion of time it was seen at each of our 10 waterholes. Individuals linked by a line have been seen at least once together.

You might immediately notice that many individual nodes are red and orange, these correspond to 47 giraffes (53% of the individuals) seen at the two waterholes in the south-western area of Ongava. But more importantly, what striking is the lack of connection between giraffes seen at these waterholes and the rest of the population, resulting in the formation of what we could loosely call ‘sub-populations’ of giraffes.

This leads to further questions:

  • Are these two groups really separated with no contact?
  • What would explain such a split?
  • Is that because of the topography or simply resulting from social organisation and individuals forming bonds with each other when living in the same area?