A sick baby giraffe regains the use of his legs thanks to custom-made splints

Few animals have legs as tall as giraffes, but for a precious female giraffe named Msituni (meaning “in the forest” in Swahili), it took a struggle to get up and walk alongside her fellow giraffes. And for good reason, the young giraffe, aged three months, was born in the safari zone of the San Diego Zoo with a condition called carpal hyperextension, which affects the bones of his legs, similar to those of the human wrist.

The hyperextension of the joint caused Msituni’s legs to bend abnormally, which caused difficulty in standing and walking and could clearly have been life-threatening. But thanks to professional treatment, the growing giraffe now has a new lease of life. Working with orthotists at the Hangar Clinic, the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance team decided that custom-made orthotics would be the best solution to fix Msituni’s fragile limbs.

Normally, the Hangar Clinic focuses primarily on human care, but in this case, its professionals were able to develop a specific plan for Msituni’s recovery. And after several fittings of already existing models, they produced custom molded orthoses from casts of the baby giraffe’s legs. To make the braces look more natural, they even added a giraffe pattern to the outside.

“We are very pleased to have the resources and expertise to intervene and provide this young giraffe with the opportunity to live life to the fullest. Without these splints to provide support, the position of her legs would have become increasingly painful and would have progressed to a point that she would not have been able to overcome,” said Matt Kinney, Senior Zoo Veterinarian . San Diego Safari Park.

What doesn’t help is that in addition to problems with his legs, Msituni also battled other serious illnesses after he was born. Zoo Safari Park staff had to give him intravenous antibiotics due to blood abnormalities, and provide him with special hoof extenders to correct the irregular position of his hind legs. But in the end, the excellent news is that all these efforts ended up paying off since all the treatments given to the baby giraffe were successful.

Today, Msituni is no longer on antibiotics and she no longer uses her splints. Plus, now that her legs are properly positioned, she’s even starting to gain size and weight while continuing to build strength. She did so well that the wildlife team at the zoo even decided to introduce her to the rest of the herd of giraffes in the park’s savannah habitat. Among the young giraffe’s companions is another female named Nuru, born just four days after Msituni.

“This is an important step in the natural development of Msituni. As her bond develops with the herd, she will be able to learn important behaviors and skills for the development of a young giraffe , ” said Kristi Burtis, director of wildlife care at Safari Park.

With scientists estimating that there are less than 100,000 giraffes left in their original habitat, a decrease of more than 40% over the past 20 years. In this time, Msituni’s recovery is all the more special: “The birth of each animal is a precious event and Msituni’s survival in the face of so much adversity makes it all the more remarkable,” added Matt Kinney.

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