Giraffes are an important tourist attraction, and human presence to wildlife is increasing.
This has an impact on an animal’s behavior and its endocrine correlates. Studies on other species
show alterations in movement patterns, vigilance, and stress-related hormone levels in the presence
of humans. Limited information is available on how anthropogenic activities alter giraffe’s behavior,
social structure, and related endocrine parameters. The purpose of this study was to obtain insight
into anthropogenic influences on giraffe’s behavior and adrenal activity. We used GPS devices
mounted onto giraffes to compare the distance walked in the presence or absence of human observers.
We also conducted behavioral observations to assess their vigilance and collected fecal samples to
analyze their fecal glucocorticoid metabolite (fGCM) concentrations. Giraffes walked significantly
further distances in the presence of humans, but the cumulative time that observers were present
decreased the hourly distance walked with an observer present, suggesting that the giraffes were
becoming habituated. The number of observers present significantly increased the percentage of
time spent on observing an observer as well as the number of unhabituated individuals present
in the herd. The percentage of time spent observing a human observer did not decrease with the
increase of habituation. Last, fGCM concentrations increased with human presence but decreased
when individuals became habituated to human presence. More research is needed to understand the
effect of anthropogenic influences in different scenarios (e.g., tourism, vehicles, hunting, etc.).