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A baby Giraffe born May 2 at Woodland Park Zoo reached three milestones in the past two weeks: he was given a name, got new shoes, and went outdoors for the first time.

The little Giraffe will be called Hasani, after his paternal grandfather. The name was chosen by zoo staff for this handsome calf who has already stolen hearts across the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Then, on May 17, Hasani went outdoors for the first time to show off custom-made therapeutic shoes designed to correct a foot problem.

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2019_05_12 giraffe new shoes metal-3Photo Credit: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

Immediately after female Giraffe Olivia gave birth to her calf, the zoo’s animal health team noticed that the baby’s rear feet were not in normal alignment. The condition, known as hyperextended fetlocks, is well documented in Horses and has been reported to occur in Giraffes. One day after the Giraffe was born, the zoo’s animal health team applied casts on both rear legs to help stabilize his limbs. 

A week after the calf's birth, Woodland Park Zoo’s exhibits team constructed temporary therapeutic shoes for the baby Giraffe. Meanwhile, the zoo’s veterinary team consulted with a Kentucky-based equine veterinarian who specializes in foot conditions. He visited the zoo to evaluate the calf, and crafted new custom shoes based on the zoo’s specifications. He modified a design that he has used to successfully treat numerous foals with the same condition. The shoes will do the heavy lifting in the next phase of treatment of the baby’s rear leg abnormalities. Huge thanks to Dr. Scott Morrison and Manuel Cruz of Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital for their support and expertise with this shoe design. 

The new shoes are made of metal with a textured bottom for extra grip. An acrylic molding wraps around to secure the shoe to the hoof. “This whole-toe wrap binds the toes more snugly to stabilize the shoe and provide a stronger grip to the hoof,” says Dr. Tim Storms, associate veterinarian at Woodland Park Zoo. The shoes are more water-resistant than the previously made wooden shoes. “This will be better for walking outdoors on wet ground and will allow him to exercise more, which is critical to his development.” 

Kinesiology tape – often used by runners and athletes – helps to stimulate and support Hasani’s muscles and replaces the bandages that were put on his legs right after birth.

Hasani’s treatment may last several months. “While we are happy with Hasani’s response so far and these new shoes, he’s not out of the woods yet. His condition is still guarded and we’re keeping him under close observation. We’ll continue assessing the best course of action to help him walk and grow normally, and to find a good balance between supporting his limbs and strengthening his tendons,” adds Storms. 

Other than the abnormalities in his rear legs, Hasani remains in good health and is nursing and bonding with mom. He weighed 155 pounds at birth and now weighs 180 pounds, so he is growing and growing!

Giraffes are widespread across southern and eastern Africa, with smaller isolated populations in west and central Africa. New population surveys estimate an overall 40 percent decline in the Giraffe population; fewer than 100,000 exist today. Of the currently recognized subspecies of Giraffe, five have decreasing populations, while three are increasing and one is stable.