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A tall order: Analysing paddock use of Rothschild giraffe

The herd of Rothschild giraffe at Chester Zoo have 24 hour access to their outdoor paddock during summer.

To better understand the herd’s preferences and help the team make decisions regarding resources provision, we recorded individual locations and used infra-red camera footage outside zoo opening hours, to monitor activity levels and determine how many giraffes use the paddock and location preferences. 

We found that all individuals used the outdoor paddock after hours and paddock use is likely to be influenced by resource availability. Therefore, by making husbandry changes, wider paddock use can be encouraged.

Project detail

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.

Project team

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Key Facts

Chester Zoo's giraffes use their outdoor paddock after zoo hours over summer
Chester Zoo's giraffes spend the majority of their time where food is present
Providing new grazing opportunities may encourage wider paddock use

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