Preparing for a pedicure is no small feat for a four metre tall giraffe but keepers at Adelaide Zoo are up to the task.
Keepers have been working hard to train four-year-old giraffe Nolean to present her hooves, with the end goal of presenting them for a trim.
Senior Keeper of Ungulates, Elise Maurer, said hours of persistence and trust building is now paying off with Nolean hitting positive training milestones.
“Initially we started by getting Nolean comfortable walking into the training space and placing her nose on a target stick.
“By starting small and progressing in incremental steps we’ve now progressed to seeing Nolean consistently place her hoof on a training block,” said Elise.
Giraffe are very aware of their environment and notice any changes out of the ordinary, but keepers have plenty of treats up their sleeve to encourage Nolean to participate.
“Usually as soon as we hold up the target stick Nolean is very keen to come over and get involved in the training sessions, she’s very engaged and that benefits her.
“Nolean really enjoys her veggies and we reward her training with carrot and celery, which is a high value reinforcer for her.”
The next step in Nolean’s training will see her hold her foot on the training block.
“Once she’s holding her foot comfortably on the training block we’ll build up to the tactile stage of keepers touching her hooves and eventually applying moisturiser.”
The training is part of ongoing foot care for Nolean following a general anaesthetic procedure in 2023 to evaluate and reshape an overgrown hoof.
“Following Nolean’s successful procedure last year the expert farrier has given us some recommendations on how we can maintain Nolean’s hooves moving forward and this involves training her so we can work on her hooves while she’s awake.
“Hoof care is important for any giraffe, but especially for Nolean because we know she has this history and we want her to be able to participate in this ongoing care.”
“Our end goal is to see Nolean present her hooves and be comfortable with a farrier around her feet, and we’re very happy with the progress she’s made in achieving this,” finished Elise.
Training animals for routine health management is one way keepers provide the highest level of care to the animals across both Zoos SA sites.
Zoos SA’s approach to animal welfare focuses on five domains – environment, behaviour, nutrition, health and positive mental state – and preparing animals for health management is an important factor in achieving positive welfare outcomes.
Giraffe are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List, with less than 117,000 remaining in the wild. Zoos South Australia partners with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation to help protect giraffe in the wild. Each time the public visit the giraffe trio at Adelaide Zoo, they are supporting conservation of giraffes in the wild.