Adelaide Zoo’s veterinary team and keepers, along with a number of external experts, successfully anaesthetised four-year-old giraffe Nolean on Thursday 26 October to investigate and address an ongoing foot problem.
Adelaide Zoo keepers and vet team had been monitoring abnormal conformation and associated swelling of Nolean’s rear left foot over several months. After extensive discussion within the Adelaide Zoo team, along with input from external experts, it was decided a general anaesthetic was required to appropriately evaluate Nolean’s foot.
Performing a general anaesthetic on a 700kg giraffe to facilitate the procedures required for her foot was no small feat and involved a team of over 30 people.
Adelaide Zoo’s keepers and vet team worked alongside a team of external experts including Master Farrier Michael Fruin from NSW, who has consulted on foot problems in over 18 giraffes internationally. Jimmy Sanders, a keeper from Taronga Zoo, brought a wealth of experience managing giraffes for anaesthetic procedures both in zoos and in the wild in Africa. Jordan Mandell, from local Adelaide company MedVet Concepts, provided access to state-of-the-art x-ray equipment to give the team the best quality radiographs of Nolean’s feet possible.
Senior Keeper at Adelaide Zoo, Arliah Hayward, said meticulous planning set us up for a safe and successful procedure.
“Due to their large size there are many challenges when anaesthetising giraffes safely but the careful and hard work of the team saw a smooth procedure and we’re very happy to see Nolean on the mend.
“It was rewarding to see people with different expertise come together from across the country and work as a team to help Nolean,” said Arliah.
Each person had an important role to play in the hour and a half long procedure. Vets and vet nurses monitored Nolean to keep her stable throughout the anaesthetic procedure, collected blood samples, and took multiple x-rays of Nolean’s hind feet. The team of farriers evaluated and trimmed all four feet, working simultaneously on different feet. Keepers helped carefully reposition Nolean’s body once she was asleep, and managed Nolean’s neck to prevent complications.
Adelaide Zoo Veterinarian, David McLelland, said taking care of a giraffe’s neck is crucial under general anaesthetic to avoid a range of complications.
“It is a long way down when a giraffe is going under anaesthetic! They can easily injure their neck as the anaesthetic takes effect, and also in recovery. Modifications to the giraffe house were undertaken ahead of time to minimise this risk.
“Once Nolean was anaesthetised her neck position was adjusted every ten minutes and several keepers massaged her neck muscles to avoid spams.
“Keeping the procedure time short is ideal for a successful recovery, so it was fantastic to complete the procedure in about an hour and a half,” said David.
The outcome of the procedure was good news for Nolean, with x-rays showing an old healed injury in her fetlock.
“The foot problem we were concerned about was largely due to hoof overgrowth which had developed in response to an old injury.
“The farriers were able to shape the hooves of the affected foot and achieve almost normal foot conformation” said David.
Farrier Michael Fruin led a team of farriers who worked side by side to complete required work in as short a time as possible.
“We completed a foot trim to rebalance and realign Nolean’s hooves as best as possible and it went really well.
“I’ve been doing farrier work with zoos for 35 years and it’s a continuous learning curve but very rewarding to work with endangered species and be able to contribute to conservation in this way,” said Michael.
Nolean was back on her feet shortly after the procedure and the dedicated team of keepers and vets closely monitored Nolean while she recovered from the anaesthetic.
She was reintroduced to giraffes Matumi and Kimya and returned to the public habitat that afternoon.
Nolean is now moving around her habitat well as she gets used to her ‘new shoes’.
The wellbeing of animals is a top priority for Zoos SA and the team are proud to be providing a high standard of animal care exemplified in this successful outcome for Nolean.
Sadly, there are only 117,000 giraffe remaining in the wild and the species is listed as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union of Conservation (IUCN)
By coming along to Adelaide Zoo and taking part in a giraffe experience with Nolean, Matumi and Kimya the public are supporting giraffe conservation in the wild.
Zoos SA is long-term supporter of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) and donates money through our giraffe experiences across Adelaide Zoo and Monarto Safari Park.
This support has helped GCF purchase GPS satellite-tracking units called Twiga Trackers. These provide a better understanding of where wild giraffe move, how much space they need, and how they utilise their habitats across a range of different environments.