Vets Make House Call to Baby Giraffe

Posted June 21, 2011

CINCINNATI, OH (June 21, 2011) – “Zuri,” the Cincinnati Zoo’s 11-week-old baby giraffe, had her second scheduled doctor’s visit since breaking her leg on May 19. Zoo keepers and veterinarians, along with Equine Specialists Dr. Thomas Beckman and Dr. Michael Farwick, performed the procedure last week indoors at Giraffe Ridge.

The one-hour procedure of removing Zuri’s cast, taking X-rays of her leg and putting a new cast on is a well-orchestrated process. It involves 15-20 people – all playing a very important role such as monitoring anesthesia (heart and respiratory rates), collecting blood to check for indications of problems (e.g. infection), massaging Zuri’s legs, body and neck to ensure proper blood circulation to prevent damage to her muscles, taking radiographs (X-rays) and replacing the cast. Zoo vets were fortunate on this last procedure to use direct digital radiology equipment, generously donated by Dr. Farwick.

“The digital X-ray equipment allowed us to see real-time images of her injury,” said Dr. Mark Campbell, Director of Animal Health, at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. “It had been 15 days since her last evaluation and we wanted to see how the healing process was going before we proceeded with a new cast. With the help of digital radiology we were able to improve the alignment of the fractured leg. She recovered well and has been doing fine since the procedure.”

“Since Zuri is growing rapidly, we will need to evaluate her every 2 to 3 weeks to make sure the cast is still fitting properly,” said Dr. Campbell. “Her next exam may be the most critical. After 4 – 6 weeks since the injury, I would like to see some callus forming at the site of the injury, which would indicate the healing process has begun and is progressing as hoped.”

“Everybody thinks a fractured arm or leg you can set it and tell them to take it easy,” said Dr. Beckman. “You cannot do that with this animal. So, you have to have a lot of faith and hope that she will take care of it and we will get the healing we want.”

Zuri continues to nurse, walk, and interact with mother, Tessa. She will remain indoors to help further avoid irritating the injury. Zuri, Tessa, and her father, Kimba, can all be viewed at Giraffe Ridge.