Woodland Park Zoo welcomed its newest giraffe this spring with an innovative partnership and a pair of new shoes. Baby giraffe Hasani’s medical journey combines a tradition of veterinary excellence with modern, innovative animal care solutions.
When Hasani was born, zoo animal keepers and veterinary staff observed an abnormal alignment in his rear leg that caused him difficulty walking. This condition, commonly known as hyperextended fetlocks, is often treated in horses but has rarely been treated in giraffes. This abnormality is detrimental to giraffes in the wild, as their legs can’t support the weight of their body and they are unable to flee from predators.
Animal Health team members consulted with colleagues and giraffe specialists around the country, and one day after Hasani was born he was outfitted with rear-leg casts made by zoo staff artisans to help stabilize his limbs. Within days, veterinary staff identified the potential for an innovative new partnership and contacted Kentucky-based equine experts from Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital who specialize in treating horses with the same leg condition.
Equine podiatrist Dr. Scott Morrison visited Woodland Park Zoo to evaluate the calf and created a customized shoe with colleague Manuel Cruz using a modified horse design to fit the specific needs of the baby giraffe. The new shoes were made of durable metal with a textured bottom for extra grip, an acrylic foundation and molding on top that wraps around and secures the shoe to the hooves. The custom therapeutic shoes allowed the newborn giraffe to maintain motion in his feet, shift the weight bearing and reinforce correct alignment.
“With the zoo’s knowledge of giraffes and my background correcting hyperextended fetlocks in horses, we were able to develop a custom solution that helped stabilize Hasani’s legs, encourage him to walk outdoors on wet ground and allow him to exercise. All of this was critical to his development,” said Dr. Morrison. “There is so much we can learn from each other by sharing our diverse expertise.”
Hasani no longer needs therapeutic shoes and has made great strides thanks to talented veterinarians and creative partnerships. His story received international attention and sparked joy and emotional connections across the country, especially resonating with the special needs community.
Hasani’s case is only one example of the comprehensive animal care program at Woodland Park Zoo.
“From ringtail lemurs to rhinos, we want to provide the best possible healthcare to every animal at every stage of their lives,” said Dr. Tim Storms, associate veterinarian at Woodland Park Zoo. “Finding innovative partners and solutions means that we can support animals who are pregnant, newborn, geriatric and at all unique stages in between. It’s how we can ensure the highest quality of life from their first moment to their last.”
The zoo’s dedication to developing innovative partnerships for the wellbeing of animals in the Pacific Northwest and around the world is well established. A zoo breeding-and-release program initiated in 1991 in partnership with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon Zoo has increased the population of endangered Northwestern pond turtles from 150 to over 1,000 in protected sites in the wild. In 2017, the zoo partnered with doctors and surgeons from the University of Washington to create a hernia surgery and care plan for a 450-pound gorilla. And as an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Woodland Park Zoo is part of a learning and sharing network of over 230 organizations dedicated to global wildlife conservation and exemplary animal care.
These public, private and non-profit partnerships are an integral part of the innovative and exceptional animal care at Woodland Park Zoo. If you would like to support these efforts, please contact Erin Oest-Larsen at email@example.com to coordinate a corporate volunteer group, or make a gift to Animal Care at zoo.org/donate.