Yesterday, an 8-month-old male giraffe named, “Turtle,” underwent surgery to remove a bone fragment in his right rear leg. The fragment was most likely the result of a previous unknown trauma leading to pain in the joint and an abnormal gait. Because the altered gait could lead to more severe issues resulting in a life-threatening situation, it was imperative that the bone fragment be surgically removed to relieve the pain and hopefully restore a normal gait.
Equine veterinary specialist, Dr. Alexander Daniel, along with his team consisting of veterinarian Dr. Sarah Gracida, veterinary technicians, Carson Gavalline and Gabrielle Ruiz, and veterinary student, Triston Lackey, volunteered their time to perform this very special surgery. They were assisted by Zoo Miami’s veterinarians Dr. Rodney Schnellbacher, Dr. Marisa Bezjian, Dr. Gaby Flacke and Dr. Gwen Myers, along with the zoo’s Animal Health team.
Though still considered a juvenile, this young giraffe weighs more than 500 pounds and stands close to 10 feet tall. It took a team of over a dozen people working together to successfully immobilize, transport, and monitor the giraffe during a procedure that took a total of just over 2 hours.
While immobilized, the giraffe received a series of radiographs to help determine the best surgical approach while also having a routine blood draw. Following the removal of the bone fragment, the joint was infused with hydrogel and stem cells to promote healing. In addition, Turtle received laser therapy, acupuncture therapy, and massage therapy, all designed to make the healing process more comfortable in the following days.
As of this writing, Turtle is up and walking normally, giving every indication that the surgery was a success! He will remain off-exhibit for the next few days so he can be carefully monitored to help ensure that the positive progress continues!
Photo/video credit: Ron Magill