Woodland Park Zoo’s Giraffe Calf Gets Custom Shoes


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Woodland Park Zoo’s male Giraffe calf has been outfitted with custom-made therapeutic shoes in the next phase of treatment for his rear leg abnormalities.

The calf was born on May 2 to mom Olivia. Hours after his birth, the zoo’s animal health team radiographed his rear legs after noticing each rear foot was not in normal alignment.

“The condition is known as hyperextended fetlocks. It is well documented in horses and has been reported to occur in Giraffes,” said Dr. Tim Storms, associate veterinarian at Woodland Park Zoo.

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4_2019_05_02 baby giraffe-2Photo Credits: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

One day after the Giraffe was born, the zoo’s animal health team applied casts on both rear legs to help stabilize his limbs.

After consultations of medical literature and colleagues at other zoos, the zoo’s exhibits team was called in to help. The talented team of exhibit artists specially crafted two-piece shoes made of high-density polyethylene and plywood with grooves for better adhesion to the foot and for better traction.

“At this stage, the new therapeutic shoes are on a trial basis, but I’m hopeful that they will help him walk better. We’ll continue refining and improving our approach to find a good balance between supporting his limbs and strengthening his tendons,” said Storms. “We’re so very grateful to our in-house exhibits team for jumping in to help our baby Giraffe. We’re very touched by their eagerness to lend their expertise to caring for this new life. It’s been all hands on deck for our baby.”

Treatment will most likely span over several months. “While our baby Giraffe is healthy and continues nursing and bonding with mom, he remains in guarded condition and under close observation. As we move forward with his treatment, we’ll continue assessing the best course of action to help him walk and grow normally,” added Storms.

During the veterinary procedure, the baby weighed in at 170.5 pounds, up from a birth weight of 155 pounds. Mom and her baby remain off view, in the barn, for an indefinite period to allow continued maternal bonding and nursing in a cozy, private setting.

The yet-unnamed baby was born to mom, Olivia, and dad, Dave. This is the first offspring between the 12-year-old mom and 6-year-old dad; Olivia had her first baby in 2013 at Woodland Park Zoo with a different mate.

The last Giraffe birth at Woodland Park Zoo was a female, Lulu, born in 2017 to mom, Tufani (Olivia’s younger sister) and dad, Dave. In addition to the baby, Olivia, Dave and Tufani make up the current herd of Giraffes at the zoo.

The parents, Olivia and Dave, were paired under a breeding recommendation made by the Giraffe Species Survival Plan, a cooperative, conservation breeding program across accredited zoos to help ensure a healthy, self-sustaining population of Giraffes.  

Viewers can see updates about the new calf by visiting www.zoo.org/giraffe and by following the zoo’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Woodland Park Zoo participates in 111 Species Survival Plans, overseen by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. Led by experts in husbandry, nutrition, veterinary care, behavior, and genetics, these plans also involve a variety of other collaborative conservation activities such as research, public education, reintroduction and field projects.

Giraffes are widespread across southern and eastern Africa, with smaller isolated populations in west and central Africa. New population surveys estimate an overall 40 percent decline in the giraffe population; fewer than 100,000 exist today. Of the currently recognized subspecies of giraffe, five have decreasing populations, while three are increasing and one is stable.

Giraffe enthusiasts can stick their necks out for giraffes and help support conservation efforts by visiting Woodland Park Zoo and supporting the Wildlife Survival Program, which includes the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. The Foundation seeks to provide the first long-term ecological monitoring effort of the Angolan giraffe—an important desert-dwelling giraffe subspecies in northwestern Namibia. Visit http://www.zoo.org/conservation to learn more about the zoo’s conservation partnerships taking place in the Pacific Northwest and around the world.

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