A Brief History of Field Work on Giraffe before the Year 2000

Today, I am featuring a guest post by Anne Innis Dagg, a Canadian zoologist, biologist, feminist, and author of numerous books. She has been referred to as “the Jane Goodall of giraffes” and has made a significant contribution to giraffes worldwide in an unprecedented way. Dagg went to Africa in the mid-1950s to study giraffes, making her one of the first scientists to study wild animal behavior in Africa. -Derek E. Lee

A Brief History of Field Work on Giraffe before the Year 2000

By Anne Innis Dagg, PhD

Unfortunately, it has been stated recently on the web and in film that virtually no field work had been done on giraffe before 2000. This is not true. I was the first to study this wonderful animal nearly 50 years before that, and soon other giraffe biologists were studying their behavior as well. Here is a brief description of what was accomplished. Further information about these scientific studies is available in my book The Giraffe: Biology, Behaviour and Conservation .

** My pioneering field work on the behavior of giraffe was carried out in 1956-57 on a cattle ranch near Kruger National Park, followed by later research on other aspects of giraffe.

** A few years later, Bristol Foster, a former classmate of mine at university, carried out a long-term much more comprehensive study of the life of giraffe, this time in the Nairobi National Park, working with students at the university there.

** Phil Berry in Zambia was unique in that although he was not a trained scientist, he observed and made extensive notes on giraffe in the Luangwa Valley for over 50 years. Recently he and Fred Bercovitch have published many papers on this long term data set.

** Between 1972 and 1979, Barbara and Walter Leuthold published extensive studies of giraffe behavior in the Tsavo National Park which involved food habits, reproduction, ecology, daytime activities, and social organization.

** Vaughan Langman carried out field work on giraffe in the 1970s, such as cow/ calf relationships and giraffe pica behavior, and also published various physiological studies of this species. We keep in touch now and then.

** Anthony Hall-Martin in the 1970s in the Transvaal, South Africa, studied the seasonal food of giraffe as well as their productivity.

** David Pratt and Virginia Anderson, who contacted me in the late 1970s, carried out later research on calf social development in the Serengeti, and then the behavior of giraffe in Arusha National Park.

** J.J.C. Sauer, along with J.D. Skinner and A.W. Neitz in the early 1980s, studied the food selection of giraffe, including the changing composition of leaves they ate.

** Robin Pellew during the mid-1980s in the Serengeti researched the food consumption of giraffe there, as well as the impact of fire on this species. He later returned to Britain where he is involved with the World Wildlife Fund-UK.  Recently Megan Strauss has carried out further giraffe research in this area.

So, you can see, there have been a number scientists and amateurs who made significant efforts to advancing the science of giraffe behavior and ecology in the decades before the recent millennium began.


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