Giraffes are a main draw at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, and World Giraffe Day on June 21, provides a great reason to celebrate and talk about these magnificent animals and the care needed to ensure their good health. The animal care team at Riverbanks is committed to providing the highest standards of care to the residents at the Zoo as evidenced by their quick response to a young giraffe with tender hooves. Riverbanks is also leading the regional charge in collection of animal plasma.
Riverbanks has a herd of 6 giraffes, with Isabelle being the smallest. Her care team noticed she was starting to show some discomfort from the overgrowth of her hooves, so they took immediate action. Alyson Proveaux, Curator of Mammals at Riverbanks, said, “Isabelle is in training to present her front feet on a foot block to allow us to trim her hooves. This training is progressing, but Isabelle's discomfort became great enough that we felt we needed to intervene earlier than her training was going to allow for voluntary trims.”
Riverbanks’ Director of Animal Health, Dr. Martha Weber explained, “We assembled a team of our animal care professionals and support staff, as well as farriers and anesthesiologists so we could safely anesthetize her and trim her feet as quickly as possible.”
This procedure was made possible by a hoof training program offered by the Zoo Hoofstock Trim Program (ZHTP). The ZHTP teaches zoo professionals to trim hooves and assess issues through intensive week-long courses. Proveaux, along with two local farriers, Bill and Walt Martin, attended this course last year, and between the three of them and the ZHTP, they were confident going into the procedure.
Riverbanks’ Director of Animal Care and Welfare, Greg Peccie, provided additional insight, "We trim our animals’ hooves regularly, but think of that as brushing your teeth. This procedure is like going to the dentist for a deep and preventative cleaning.”
Proveaux was thrilled with the results, “Immediately after the procedure, we noticed that Isabelle's conformation was better. We are working hard on her training so that we can continue to keep her feet and joints healthy!”
While Isabelle was under anesthesia, Dr. Weber collected a bag of blood that was used to collect plasma. Plasma can be used to help a newborn giraffe that has had a rough start in life. Weber said, “There are no giraffe plasma banks in the southeastern U.S., so we are excited for the opportunity to contribute to giraffe conservation. We are working to condition our giraffes to allow us to collect blood while they are awake so that we don't have to wait for a scheduled anesthesia to get a sample.”
Media wishing to conduct interviews should reach out to Matt Perron, Public Relations Manager at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden.
Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is home to more than 3,000 magnificent and fascinating animals and one of America’s best public gardens. The Zoo opened on April 25, 1974, and for nearly five decades, has connected individuals, families and school children with the natural world. Riverbanks is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is recognized as a global leader in animal care and welfare, education, recreation, science and wildlife conservation. It is the mission of the Zoo and Garden to create meaningful connections and inspire actions that will have a lasting impact on conservation. For more information, visit riverbanks.org.
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