The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced in Dec 2016 that giraffes as a species are threatened with extinction. The rate of decline is even faster than that of elephants or rhinos. The University of the Free State in South Africa has been on the front line of the war to save giraffes. National Geographic and the Discovery Channel have vividly documented this work.
Researchers need support to acquire GPS units that are attached to the base of a giraffe's ear without interfering in either hearing or ear movement. Using this device, they can record changes in giraffe locations as well as the duration of time that individuals spend together, their locations before and after they meet each other, and how their movements are influenced by air temperature, habitat features, and resource availability and distribution.
One unit costs about ZAR25000 or almost US$1900. Twenty units are needed.
Giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis) feature near the top of most tourist lists of preferred animals, but less is known about their life history than that of most other charismatic mammals in Africa. In the last few years, some remarkable findings have emerged. Contrary to earlier notions, giraffe live in complex societies characterised by fission-fusion dynamics where membership in subgroups within a population is fluid and flexible, but not random. Research has pinpointed kinship, age, gender, and social preferences as factors regulating giraffe herd composition, while ecological factors generally mediate herd size. Our novel approach to deciphering the determinants of giraffe herd structure and movement should augment understanding the evolution of diversity in mammalian societies. One of the most important scientific contributions that we can obtain is indirectly assessing decision-making processes among giraffes by unravelling in depth how social, ecological, and biological factors interact to contribute to variation in social structure within a population.
This research seeks new frontiers with applicability to other giraffe populations across Africa. It is also the first study to use the latest satellite technology and GPS equipped collars on all the animals to improve the scope and efficiency of field-based research, allowing the collection of the best possible data on home ranges; seasonal movements; human/giraffe interaction zones; and migration routes and duration of migration, in a very cost-effective way.
In the past, the best tracking method has been radio tracking of collared animals combined with aerial surveying. Satellite GPS collars reduce the amount of aerial surveying and tracking time as well as human effort and disturbance. Satellite collars provide extremely accurate data, providing new ground for scientific research. This will be incorporated into decisions how best to save giraffe in their natural habitats.