On May 25, 2005, 14 people interested in giraffe nutrition and health, convened at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago for a two-day workshop. The participants consisted of university and USDA ruminant nutrition researchers, zoo nutritionists, and veterinarians in addition to the giraffe nutrition and veterinary advisors and the PMP coordinator for giraffe.
Captive giraffe have a specific set of maladies that may be related to basic nutritional inadequacies. Peracute mortality (Fowler, 1978; Fowler and Boever 1986; Junge and Bradley, 1993), chronic wasting (Flach, 1997; Ball et al., 2002), energy malnutrition (Ball et al., 2002), mortality related to cold stress (Clauss et al., 1999), pancreatic disease (Lechowski et al., 1991), urolithiasis (Wolfe et al., 2000; Wolfe, 2003), neonatal health concerns (Miller et al., 1999), intestinal parasitism, and hoof disease may be influenced by traditional zoo diets.
In summary, we worked together to gain a better understanding of ruminant nutrition and how it pertains to giraffe, to understand how the clinical problems in some captive giraffe may originate from traditional zoo diets, and how changing nutrient concentrations and feed types may alleviate serious health issues in the captive giraffe population. We have compiled a document that the participants feel reflects the best information presently available. As more giraffe nutrition research is completed and more information becomes available, the recommendations may be modified. By sharing the ideas and decisions that were developed from this meeting, we hope to improve the health and well-being of giraffe that are cared for by zoo professionals.