Giraffes like it hot? Research on giraffe drinking behaviour in response to warm water supply in a cold environment
Keywords:Animal Welfare, environmental enrichment, hydration
Keeping giraffes in cold environments in zoos may place a burden on them. This study aimed to improve giraffe husbandry in cold environments by supplying warm drinking water in addition to a normal, ambient temperature water trough. Observations were conducted on three reticulated giraffes Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata kept at the Kyoto City Zoo during the winter (November–March) in 2019–2021, for 114 h. Control and warm water periods were alternated, with at least 4 days between them to ensure independence. Observations took place on 10 and 9 days for the control and warm water periods, respectively. The warm water was adjusted to approximately 37°C and supplied in a container (2 m high) in the outside enclosure. Behaviour was observed simultaneously via instantaneous sampling (foraging, rumination and others) and 1-0 sampling (branch foraging, rumination, oral behaviour and drinking), both at 1-min intervals. In the warm water period, total drinking frequency significantly increased and the frequency of drinking cold water significantly decreased. The number of times the giraffes drank during the hours shortly after the warm water was provided (0900 and 1300) also significantly increased. The average amount of warm water consumed per 7 h by the three animals was 69.16±9.54 L. No significant differences were observed in leaf foraging between the control and warm water periods. However, a significant or marginal increase in foraging behaviour was detected in two of the three giraffes during the warm water period. Thus, provision of warm water in cold environments may increase drinking by giraffes, and may contribute to management aiming to mitigate negative effects of cold in this species.
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