Creating an ID-catalogue as a tool for identifying individual giraffes at Entabeni Game Reserve as a prerequisite for collecting individual faecal samples for hormone analyses
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The giraffe is an even-toed ungulate that lives on the African continent below the Sahara desert. Once widely distributed, the giraffe population is now in decline due to habitat degradation and poaching. In order to evaluate current management practices and environmental conditions, faecal hormone profiles can be monitored and used to assess reproductive success. Therefore an Identification Catalogue (ID catalogue) for the roaming giraffe population at Entabeni Game Reserve (EGR), Limpopo, South Africa, was initially compiled in February 2011. The catalogue includes photographs of both sides of each giraffe, age classification and bodily characteristics of in total 45 giraffes which were individually identified at the lower escarpment of EGR. As a subsequent objective, the possibility to collect individual faecal samples from the catalogued giraffe population was evaluated. Between february and April 2011, a total of 134 faecal samples from 45 individuals were collected; 56 samples from 14 males (n = 1-6 per individual), 69 samples from females (n=0-9 per individual), 3 samples from juveniles (n = 0-2 per individual) and 8 samples from the calves (n = 0-5 per individual). Overall, the collection frequency was on average 1 sample per 9-13 days for females and males, respectively. This study shows that in a small reserve of 6400 ha identification of individual giraffe is possible by the creation of an ID catalogue. Such a catalogue subsequently allows collection of individual faecal samples which e.g. could be used to monitor reproductive or stress-related activities within the population on an individual level.