The female baby giraffe Msituni got custom orthotic braces on her front legs to correct a hyperextension of her bones, which made it difficult for her to stand and walk. She had to wear the braces for a few weeks to straighten her legs.
“So the hyperextension, the joint going the wrong way, was the big concern with her,” said Matt Kinney, senior veterinarian at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
The American zoo worked with Hanger Clinic, which usually makes orthotics and prosthetics for humans, to make a custom brace for Msituni (pronounced: see-tune-nee).
“It is a custom molded carbon graphite brace, and we actually put the pattern on there too, just so it would blend in with other wildlife,” Ara Mirzaian, orthotist at Hangar Clinic, said.
The treatment was a success. The braces correctly positioned Msituni’s legs, and have been removed. She was introduced to the rest of the giraffe herd in the Safari Park East Africa savanna habitat.
“It’s a sense of accomplishment. I think it’s like the best thing I’ve ever done in 30 years. I’ve never worked with wildlife like this before, so it was one of those things where it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, and you just have to savor the moment,” Mirzaian said.
Msituni’s chances of survival were very low without the treatment, according to the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.
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