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Giraffe populations in East Africa have declined in the past thirty years yet there has been limited research on this species. This study had four objectives: i) to provide a baseline population assessment for the two largest populations of Rothschild's giraffes in Kenya, ii) to assess whether there are differences in population structure between the two enclosed populations, iii) to assess the potential and possible implications of different management practices on enclosed giraffe populations to inform future decision-making, and iv) to add to the availability of information available about giraffes in the wild. I used individual identification to assess the size and structure of the two populations; in Soysambu Conservancy between May 2010 and January 2011, I identified 77 giraffes; in Lake Nakuru National Park between May 2011 and January 2012, I identified 89. Population structure differed significantly between the two sites; Soysambu Conservancy contained a high percentage of juveniles (34%) and subadults (29%) compared to Lake Nakuru NP, which contained fewer juveniles (5%) and subadults (15%). During the time of this study Soysambu Conservancy contained no lions while Lake Nakuru NP contained a high density of lions (30 lions per 100km2). Lions are the main predator of giraffes, and preferential predation on juvenile giraffes has previously been identified in Lake Nakuru NP. My results suggest that high lion density in Lake Nakuru NP may have influenced the structure of the giraffe population by removing juveniles and, consequently, may affect future population growth. I suggest that wildlife managers consider lion densities alongside breeding plans for Endangered species, since the presence of lions appears to influence the population structure of giraffes in enclosed habitats.
Keywords: Giraffe, Population Structure, Management practices, Lions, Predation
Author: Zoe Muller
Journal: PLOS ONE