Analysis of stereotypic behaviour and enhanced management in captive Northern Giraffe Giraffa camelopardalis housed at Zoological Garden Alipore, Kolkata

Main Article Content

Tushar Pramod Kulkarni


 In the wild, giraffes live complex social lives exhibiting fission-fusion social systems.  They have sophisticated communication which likely forms a crucial component regulating subgroup dynamics.  They spend a large part of their day browsing and traveling over large distances.  In captivity, lack of continuous browsing opportunities and limited space can lead to various abnormal and stereotypic behaviours.  These stereotypic behaviours can have cascading detrimental health consequences.  A behavioural analysis of stereotypic behaviours in giraffes under human care was conducted to evaluate sources of variation within a population and provide management recommendations.  The aim of this investigation was threefold: 1. to examine current behaviour of giraffes in Zoological Garden Alipore, Kolkata to advise on their enhanced management; 2. to highlight any behavioural abnormalities and recommend enrichment mechanisms; and 3. to compare the observed stereotypic behaviours with behaviour described in other zoological institutions and in the wild to provide a focal trajectory in the development of guidelines.  Four individuals (two adult males, one adult female, and one male calf) were observed outdoors for seven days, three times a day for 30 minutes by instantaneous scan sampling method.  During the observation period, the giraffe exhibited oral stereotypy more than any other behaviour recorded, though this was recorded disproportionally between individuals.  The giraffe spent a larger amount of time exhibiting oral stereotypy compared to feeding/foraging activities.  The study suggests incorporating diet and feeding strategies with provision of natural browse as well as offering enrichment methods to increase the foraging time using various time-engaged feeding devices to mitigate the observed abnormal stereotypic behaviour.  Additionally, recommendations are made for expanding the size of the open enclosure to meet guidelines by the Central Zoo Authority, as a minimum.


Article Details

Author Biography

Tushar Pramod Kulkarni, Associate, Giraffe Conservation Foundation, Eros, Windhoek, Namibia.

Tushar Kulkarni has undertaken collaborative work with Zoological Garden Alipore, Kolkata, India and with West Bengal Zoo Authority (WBZA), West Bengal, India, on giraffe behaviour studies, education and genetic studies of giraffe at Zoological Garden Alipore. He has also associated with Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF), Namibia, for a number of years and have collaborated on a range of giraffe conservation and management initiatives.  He has presented the current work at International Giraffid Conference held at Brookfield zoo, Chicago, USA, in May 2016.


Appleby, M.C. & A.B. Lawrence (1987). Food restriction as a cause of stereotypic behaviour in tethered gilts. Animal Science 45: 103–110. DOI:

Bashaw, M.J., L. Tarou, T. Maki & T. Maple (2001). A survey assessment of variables related to stereotypy in captive giraffe and okapi. Journal of Applied Animal Science Behavior 73: 235–247. DOI:

Bashaw, M.J., M.A. Bloomsmith, L.M. Terry & F.B. Bercovitch (2007). The structure of social relationships among captive female giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis). Journal of Comparative Psychology 121: 46-53. DOI:

Baxter, E. & A.B. Plowman (2001). The effect of increasing dietary fibre on feeding rumination and oral stereotypies in captive giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis). Animal Welfare 10: 281–290.

Bergeron, R., A.J. Badnell-Waters, S. Lambton & G. Mason (2006). Stereotypic Oral Behaviour in Captive Ungulates: Foraging, Diet and Gastrointestinal Function, pp. 19–57. In: Mason G. & J. Rushen (eds.). Stereotypic Animal Behaviour: Fundamentals and Applications to Welfare, 2nd Edition. CABI, Wallingford, 384pp. DOI:

Bonal, B.S., I. Dhamija, B.R. Sharma, S.C. Sharma & B.K. Gupta (eds.) (2014). Zoos in India-legislation, policy, guidelines & strategy, 5th revision. Central Zoo Authority (Statutory Body under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Govt. of India), India, 271pp.

Burgess, A. (eds.). (2004). The Giraffe Husbandry Resource Manual. AZA Antelope and Giraffe Taxon Advisory Group. Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Orlando, FL, 184pp.

Dagg, A.I. & J.B. Foster (1976). The Giraffe: Its Biology, Behavior and Ecology. Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, New York, 210pp.

du Toit, J.T. (1990). Home range-body mass relations: a field study on African Browsing ruminants. Oecologia 85: 301–303. DOI:

du Toit, J.T. & C.A. Yetman (2005). Effects of body size on the diurnal activity budgets of African browsing ruminants. Oecologia 2: 317–325. DOI:

Duggan, G., C.C. Burn & M. Clauss (2015). Nocturnal behavior in captive giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis)—a pilot study. Zoo Biology 35: 14–18. DOI:

EAZA Giraffe EEPs (2006). EAZA Husbandry and Management Guidelines for Giraffa camelopardalis. Burgers’ Zoo, Arnhem, 132pp.

Fennessy, J.T. (2004). Ecology of the desert-dwelling giraffe Giraffa camelopardalis angolensis in northwestern Namibia. PhD Thesis. University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia, xvi+265pp.

Fennessy, J., T. Bidon, F. Reuss, V. Kumar, P. Elkan, M.A. Nilsson, M. Vamberger, U. Fritz & A. Janke (2016). Multi-locus analyses reveal four giraffe species instead of one. Current Biology 26: 2543–2549. DOI:

Fernandez, L.T., M.J. Bashaw, R.L. Sartor, N.R. Bouwens & T.S. Maki (2008). Tongue twisters: feeding enrichment to reduce oral stereotypy in giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis). Zoo Biology 27: 200–212. DOI:

Forthman, D.L. (1998). Toward optimal care for confined ungulates, pp. 236–261. In: Shepherdson, D.J., J. D. Mellen & M. Hutchins (eds.). Second Nature: Environmental Enrichment for Captive Animals. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, 376pp.

Garry, S. (2012). Analyses of captive behaviour and enclosure use in Rothschild’s giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi) housed at Paignton Zoo Environmental Park. The Plymouth Student Scientist 5: 4–30.

Hofmann, R.R. (1973). The ruminant stomach. East African Monographs in Biology Vol. II. East African Literature Bureau, Nairobi, 354pp.

Höllerl, S., B. Stimm, J. Hummel & M. Clauss (2006). Browse provision for captive herbivores. Design and management of a browse plantation, pp. 211–212. In: Andrea, F., M. Clauss, K. Eulenberger, J-M. Hatt, I. Hume, G. P. J. Janssens & J. Nijboer (eds.). Zoo Animal Nutrition, Vol. 3. Filander Verlag, Fürth.

Hummel, J., M. Clauss, E. Baxter, E.J. Flach & K. Johansen (2006). The influence of roughage intake on the occurrence of oral disturbances in captive giraffids, pp. 235–252. In: Fidgett, A., M. Clauss, K. Eulenberger, J.-M. Hatt, I. Hume, G Janssens & J. Nijboer (eds.). Zoo Animal Nutrition Vol. 3. Filander Verlag, Fürth.

Kirkwood, J.K. (1998). Design for the accommodation for wild animals: How do we know when we have got it right? In: Plowman A.B. & P.M.C. Stevens (eds.). Proceedings of the 5th International Zoo Design Conference. Paignton, England.

Koene, P. & E.K. Visser (1996). Tongue playing behavior in captive giraffes, pp. 106–111. In: 1st International Symposium on Physiology and Ethology of Wild and Zoo Animals. Klima, Berlin.

Kolter, L. (1995). Control of behavior and the development of disturbed behavior patterns, pp. 248–256. In: Ganslosser, U., J.K. Hodges & W. Kaumanns W (eds.). Research and captive propagation. Filander Verlang, Fürth, Germany, 338pp.

Lintzenich, B.A. & A.M. Ward (1997). Hay and pellet ratios: considerations in feeding ungulates. In: Nutrition Advisory Handbook, Fact Sheet 006.

Macedonia, J.M. (1987). Effects of housing differences upon activity budgets in captive sifakas (Propithecus verreauxi). Zoo Biology 6: 55–67. DOI:

MacPhee, M. & J, Mellen (2000). Framework for planning, documenting, and evaluating enrichment programs (and the director’s, curator’s, and keeper’s roles in the process), pp. 221–225. In: AAZPA Annual Conference Proceedings. American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums, Wheeling, WV.

Maple, T.L. (1979). Great apes in captivity: The good, the bad and the ugly, pp. 239–273. In: Maple T.L., J. Erwin & G. Mitchell (eds.). Captivity and behavior: Primates in breeding colonies, laboratories and zoos. Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 286pp.

Mason, G.J. (1991). Stereotypies: a critical review. Animal Behaviour 41: 1015–1037. DOI:

Mason, G.J. & M. Mendl (1997). Do the stereotypies of pigs, chickens and mink reflect adaptive species differences in the control of foraging? Applied Animal Behaviour Science 53: 45–58. DOI:

Mason, G.J. & N. Latham (2004). Can’t stop, won’t stop: is stereotypy a reliable animal welfare indicator. Animal Welfare 13: 57–69.

Mason, G., R. Clubb, N. Latham & S. Vickery (2007). Why and how should we use environmental enrichment to tackle stereotypic behavior? Applied Animal Behavior Science 102: 163–188. DOI:

Mertens, D.R. (2007). Digestibility and intake chapter: 32. In: Barnes, R.F, C.J. Nelson, K.J. Moore & M. Collins (eds.). Forages, The Science of Grassland Agriculture, 6th edition, Vol. 2. Blackwell Publishing, U.K., 808pp.

Miller, R.E. & M.E. Fowler (eds.) (2012). Fowler’s Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine, Volumes 6, 7 & 8. Saunders, USA, 688pp. DOI:

Pellew, R.A. (1984). The feeding ecology of a selective browser, the giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi). Journal of Zoology 202: 57–81. DOI:

Redbo, I., P. Redbo-Torstensson, F.O. Odberg, A. Hedendahl & J. Holm (1998). Factors affecting behavioral disturbances in racehorses. Animal Science 66: 475–48. DOI:

Sato, S. & I. Takagaki (1991). Tongue-playing in captive giraffe, pp. 22–29. In: 22nd International Ethological Conference. Kyoto: Otani University.

Schaub, D., M. Clauss, E.J. Flach, H.R. Wettstein, C. Tack & J.-M. Hatt (2004). Influence of physical and chemical composition of diet on oral stereotypies in captive giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis). Proceedings of the European Association of Zoo and Wildlife Veterinarians 5: 27–28.

Terlouw E.M.C., A.B. Lawrence & A.W. Illius (1991). Influences of feeding level and physical restriction on the development of stereotypies in sows. Animal Behaviour 42: 981–991. DOI:

Veasey, J.S., N.K. Waran & R.J. Young (1996). On comparing the behaviour of zoo housed animals with their wild conspecifics as a welfare indicator, using the Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) as a model. Animal Welfare 5: 139–153.

Winter, S., J. Fennessy & A. Janke (2018). Limited introgression supports division of giraffe into four species. Ecology and Evolution 8: 10156–10165. DOI: