Fancy Footwork: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s Giraffe Herd Trains for Farrier Work and X-rays

Nearly eighty percent of all giraffe sedation procedures are related to foot care. Most of the knockdowns are done once the giraffes display clinical signs of lameness, hoof overgrowth, abscesses, or swelling. Statistics show that ten percent of giraffes put under anesthesia do not make it through the procedure. These alarming statistics demonstrate the necessity for institutions housing captive giraffes to develop ways to safely provide hoof care and maintenance with non-sedated giraffes. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (CMZ) recently started an intensive operant conditioning program to maintain the foot health of its famously large herd. The majority of the training focuses on the giraffes’ voluntary participation in their own hoof care. By training the giraffes to allow for front foot handling and front foot radiographs, we are able to diagnose lameness issues, provide hoof trims, and maintain overall foot health without the use of sedation. The giraffe keepers at CMZ modified their training techniques to tailor to each of the 21 giraffes’ personalities and learning styles, and have made huge leaps forward in the giraffes’ overall care. This paper will outline the set-up, materials used, and the steps taken to train for hoof presents.

Last Updated
January 30, 2021
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