Taronga’s male giraffe, Jimiyu, today had his right hoof trimmed by a farrier.
The process was a tribute to his keepers who developed a special training program that taught Jimiyu to cooperate with leg X-rays and the hoof trims.
Master Farrier Michael Fruin, who normally deals with horses, has come in to handle the trim using tools including files, hoof knives and rasps.
Ungulate keeper Adam Battaglia said: “We noticed Jimiyu’s hooves were growing very fast and a little in-growing. They’re very similar to toenails in humans and if normal wear and tear doesn’t keep them short enough Jimiyu might have had trouble walking in the future.”
“Michael was already helping us with hoof trimming for our Barbary Sheep, so I suggested to our veterinarians that we ask if he could help with Jimiyu’s hooves.”
The keepers then developed a training program so Jimiyu would put his foot on a flat stone when asked. Then the zoo’s new digital imaging X-ray machine was introduced so veterinarians could check the giraffe’s legs for any changes.
Then Michael began to join the sessions and in recent weeks has been able to work on Jimiyu’s foot to begin the trimming process it rests on the block.
Adam said: “We’ll now trim his hooves about once a month and that should make sure he doesn’t have any troubles with his feet and legs.”
The hoof trims are another example of the zoo keepers’ very successful program of cooperative management and care of Zoo animals.
In many instances, checks and treatment that might have been very difficult or needed a general anaesthetic can now be done with the animals’ help and cooperation.
Using these techniques keepers can give seals a daily head to tail check or take ultrasounds during pregnancies, carnivore keepers can ask tigers to receive an injection from the keeper through the mesh of their night den and bears open their mouth for a teeth check when they get a simple hand signal.
Adam said: “This is a great way to work with the animals. There’s no stress for us or them and we can really help with health issues.
Jimiyu was transferred from Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s successful breeding program to become the male in Taronga’s non-breeding giraffe group which is an important part of Taronga’s African displays and education programs.