Wild Female Giraffes Live Longer When They Have Friends, Study Finds

New research published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B Journal shows that like Beatles music, friends really help you – if you are a giraffe. The heartbreaking discovery made by a research team led by Monica Bond, a research firm at the University Zurich (UZH), who was studying the social life of giraffes in Tanzania.

The goal of this five-year project is to investigate the impact of social circles, human activities and the environment on the survival rate of one of the most iconic medicinal plants in the world. They looked at animals in the Tarangire region of Tanzania, an area where there are multiple social groups, including 60 to 90 female giraffes. Female social groups are the most stable, because men will leave the family group when they are mature and then jump into groups, spending more time alone than women.

Researchers have analyzed the network to understand which animals live longer in which groups and what factors may affect them, and have linked this information to survival rates. They found that giraffe group formations were not set in stone, and that within a day it would change. Women are more likely to form long-term friendships, but the social lives of these individuals affect their survival rate.

“Grouping with more females called gregariousness is associated with better survival of female giraffes, even as group membership changes frequently,” Bond said in a statement. “This aspect of giraffe’s socialization is more important than the characteristics of their non-social environment, such as the proximity of plants and human settlements.”

Hunting aside, the biggest threats to female adult giraffes include malnutrition, disease and stress, all of which intertwined. When women were with their friends, they could probably be forerunners that are more skilled, they could share information about where the best grabs were located. Having some backup when dealing with predators and illness even serves as a deterrent unwanted advance from male giraffes?

“Studies increasingly show that social cohesion plays a key role in determining survival in addition to natural and ethno-environmental factors,” the study authors wrote. “For adult female giraffes, grouping with more members, even group memberships, is often associated with better survival as they change, and this sociality seems to be more important than several features of their antisocial environment.”