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What's Hot!: Baby giraffe born with leg disorder beats the odds to live normal life

She loves to skip around and enjoy the grounds with her fellow giraffes, but she wasn't always able to.

News 12 Staff

May 23, 2022, 12:08 PM

Updated 785 days ago

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Meet Msituni, a 3-month-old giraffe who calls the San Diego Zoo her home.
She loves to skip around and enjoy the grounds with her fellow giraffes, but she wasn't always able to.
In fact, Msituni's life was in danger until recently. She was born with a disorder that caused her front legs to bend improperly -- making it difficult to stand or walk. "This is the first carpal joint hyperextension that I've worked on with a giraffe, and to see it in both limbs was pretty concerning," says senior veterinarian Matt Kinney, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
To prevent her condition from getting worse, she was given casts. But they didn't allow full range of motion, so Kinney had to look for another solution.
They teamed up with Hanger Clinic, which provides orthotic and prosthetic care, to create her very own customized braces. "When we first saw the giraffe, we actually took cast molds of both legs, and we ended up fabricating those," says Ara Mirzaian, certified orthotist at Hanger Clinic.
They were the right width and length, didn't poke her like other models they tried, and allowed her to walk more normally.
Meanwhile, wildlife health staff was also treating Msituni with antibiotics for abnormalities in her blood and making specialized hoof extenders to fix the irregular position of her back legs. "Ultimately, her ability to be able to go out into a field habitat and be able to behave like a normal giraffe, integrate with the heard. That's the goal we're working towards."
The treatments were a success, and now Msituni no longer needs her braces or medicine.
While the San Diego Zoo and Hanger Clinic undoubtedly made a big difference in Msituni's life, she did the same for them. "I think it's like the best thing I've ever done in 30 years. I've never worked with wildlife like this," says Mirzaian. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and you just have to savor the moment," adds Kinney.


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