Giraffes prefer to dine with friends, research shows

Giraffes prefer to eat meals in the company of friends, a new study has found.

Researchers said the animals typically like to couple up with a selected companion when searching for food and eating.

The findings of a two-year study of giraffes in the Great Rift Valley region of Kenya suggest the animals prefer to have meals with chosen members of their social group due to particular benefits like added protection against predators.

Dr Zoe Muller, who led the research team from the University of Bristol, said: “It is presumable that if you are with a ‘known’ partner, they may be reliable at alarming you if a predator is around, or it may be that you both share the same meal requirements, and so your foraging and eating behaviour is complementary.”

Undated handout picture of giraffes eating in Kenya (Rothchild's Giraffe Project & Zoe Muller)
The two-year study found giraffes are selective when it comes to who they eat with (Rothschild’s Giraffe Project/Zoe Muller/PA)

Researchers used photo identification data to find many pairs of giraffes spend a high proportion of their time together when searching for food and eating.

The findings offer an insight into how evolution has helped shape giraffe social groups, and what drives the animals to display preferred companions within them.

Dr Muller added: “The dynamic nature of animal societies often hides multiple layers of complexity.

“Our work highlights the complex and dynamic nature of giraffe social structure, which could have far-reaching implications for conservation, and guide the process of how giraffe populations are managed in the wild.”

The study, which is published in Animal Companion, was funded by Chicago Zoological Society, Chester Zoo, Denver Zoo, Dublin Zoo, Fresno Chaffee Zoo the People’s Trust for Endangered Species, Phoenix Zoo and SeaWorld & Busch Gardens.

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