The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (CMZ) in Colorado Springs, Colorado recently revealed the results of innovative treatments for two of their senior giraffes. CMZ is home to the most prolific captive herd of reticulated giraffe in the world, with 199 births since 1954, but it’s the adult giraffes who are getting the attention this time around.
Mahali, a 14-year-old male giraffe, suffered chronic lameness and had not been moving well. Dr. Liza Dadone, the head veterinarian at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, decided on a groundbreaking stem cell injection treatment plan for the arthritis in his front legs when nothing else had improved his symptoms. In scientific studies, stem cell therapy has proven to repair tissue damage at the cellular level.
Dr. Dadone and staff at Colorado State University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital grew stem cells from giraffe blood, then injected Mahali with about 100 million of those stem cells. It’s believed to be the first time in the world this technique has been used on a giraffe.
It’s been about a month, and thermographic images show a considerable decline in the inflammation of Mahali’s front left leg, the one he’d been having trouble with. He’s also no longer favoring that leg.
14-year-old female giraffe Twiga has been having problems with advanced arthritis and osteoporosis in her front feet. Dr. Dadone and the veterinary team were hopeful when they heard about a farrier specialist who could make custom “sneakers” for Twiga.
The “sneakers” are divided on the underside to adjust to her individual digits – giraffes are even-toed ungulates and have 2 hooves per foot – and were attached with quick-drying glue.
Dr. Dadone said the change in Twiga’s behavior was immediate. She instantly shifted her weight off of her right foot, indicating that she was comfortable and that her pain had lessened. The shoes will likely stay on for around six weeks. Dr. Dadone hopes that other zoos will try this technique to benefit their own animals.