During the summer months, Chester Zoo’s herd of Rothschild giraffe have 24 hour access to their outdoor paddock but we know little about how often, if at all, they use this additional space after zoo closing time. By better understanding the herds’ preferences, we can make more informed management decisions about resource provision.
We recorded the location of each individual twice a day for one hour between January and May 2014, to determine if the herd prefer particular areas of the paddock. Following this, we used infra-red camera footage from around the outdoor areas to monitor activity levels and paddock usage after zoo visiting hours. We found that during the day, the herd spent the majority of their time either in the house or the surrounding areas, with the least amount of time spent in the areas by the canal.
Between the hours of 5pm and 7am, all members of the herd were observed using areas of the outdoor enclosure with browse feeding stations. This project highlighted that the herd do make use of the outdoor paddock when given 24 hour access and any preferences for area are likely to be influenced by feeding opportunities.
Therefore, husbandry changes may promote wider use of the paddock area and encourage the giraffes to exhibit more natural grazing and locomotion behaviours.