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A 3-Month-Old Giraffe Gets Leg Braces Made Especially For Her

A team of veterinarians at the San Diego Zoo has equipped a baby giraffe born with deformed legs with leg braces that allow the animal to move freely for the first time. As a result, the animal is now walking on air.

Msituni, a three-month-old elephant whose name means “in the jungle” in Swahili, was born in the zoo’s Safari Park on February 1 and was born with a genetic condition that affected his front legs. Because of the strain placed on her joints and bones by the ailment, known as carpal hypertension, the giraffe’s front legs bent incorrectly, making it nearly hard for her to stand and move.

Staff at Safari Park became concerned because the newborn calf was unable to nurse and was unable to move around the environment, and they were worried that it might die if the issue was not promptly fixed.

Msituni was born 5-foot-10 and grew quickly, giving the worried workers a sense of urgency.

A team of specialists, including doctor Ara Mirzaian, an orthotist who has fitted braces for Paralympians and kids with scoliosis, were quickly enlisted by zoo officials to help treat Msituni after realizing how serious her condition was. The doctor, who only treats humans, has never fitted an animal for such a device, much less a young giraffe.

For Mirzaian, who has been fitting patients with braces for the past 30 years, that assignment proved to be sufficiently difficult.

“When I first heard about it, it was kind of strange,” Mirzaian told the Associated Press last week after the outlet’s reporters had the opportunity to meet a completely braced Msituni, spotted parading alongside the other giraffes with a fresh spirit.

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Mirzaian’s Hanger Clinic created the brace, which is made of a cast of the calf’s legs and custom-molded carbon graphite orthotics to fit the animal comfortably. The zoo claims that the finished result is a success because Msituni may now move about in the 60-acre East African savanna habitat of the Safari Park with the rest of her herd. The animal, who weighed more than 100 pounds at birth, has received much-needed relaxation as a result.

Certified orthotist Mirzaian declared, “I feel a fantastic feeling of accomplishment. I’ve never worked with wildlife before; it’s one of those opportunities that come around only once in a lifetime, so you have to enjoy it while it lasts.”

Similar sentiments were expressed this week by Dr. Matt Kinney, a veterinarian at Safari Park, who claimed that the animal now has a fresh lease on life as a result of the custom-made item.


“We are very happy to be able to intervene and provide this baby calf the chance for a full life because we have the resources and knowledge to do so,” Kinney added.

“The position of her legs would have become worse and proceeded to a stage she wouldn’t have been able to overcome without the support of these life-saving braces.”

The doctor said, “We frequently wear casts, bandages, and other things. But for anything so substantial, like the brace she received, we had to rely on our human colleagues.”

That proved particularly difficult considering that she was a newborn who stood at 5-foot-10 inches and was getting taller every day.

Additionally, Msituni’s braces required a broad range of motion, as well as being strong and long-lasting, to be effective. To create the gadget over a period of three months, Hanger collaborated with a business that produces braces for horses.

“Of all, until we were here, all I did was research giraffes online,” Mirzaian continued.

Msituni is presently doing well, and it appears that she is adjusting to her new walking assistance, according to staff members at Safari Park.

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“The San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s director of wildlife care,” Kristi Burtis, explained that this was a critical stage in Msituni’s natural growth. She will be able to learn behaviors and abilities vital to a baby giraffe’s development as her attachment with the herd deepens.

The circumstance is reminiscent of the well-publicized tragedy of Winter the Dolphin, another crippled animal, who in 2006, had her natural tail amputated by staff members at Florida’s Clearwater Marine Aquarium after losing it in a crab trap.

The 2011 movie Dolphin Tale popularized the tale.

Additionally, the prosthetic gave the animal a second chance at life; Winter lived for 16 years before dying last November as a result.

The San Diego Zoo’s staff members are ecstatic about Msituni’s new shoes, especially in light of the fact that biologists believe there are only around 100,000 giraffes living in the wild. Every animal’s birth is a joyous occasion, which makes Msituni’s survival in the face of such hardships all the more amazing, according to veterinarian Kinney.

Meanwhile, Mirzaian says he intends to hang a photo of the giraffe sporting the brace in his office to help future patients that he treats feel less self-conscious about getting fitted for such devices. He remarked, “Watching an animal like that walk in a brace was the coolest thing.” Knowing that we prevented the death of a giraffe feels amazing.

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