Baby giraffe fitted with specialized braces to correct her front leg from bending the wrong way

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A baby giraffe born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park had been born with hyperextended carpi; a condition which made her front leg bend the wrong way. Msituni was born on February 1 at the Escondido park with her front leg bending the wrong way. The staff at the park knew there had to be human intervention or the tiny newborn would have trouble nursing and walking.

Matt Kinney, a senior veterinarian for the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, in charge of Msituni’s case, reached out to the Hanger Clinic where braces have been fitted for children and athletes, so why not an animal?

Hanger Clinic  · Brace yourselves for a very special story! Earlier this year, our San Diego-area #HangerClinic team of orthotic experts gave two-month-old giraffe Msituni (pronounced see-tune-nee) a new lease on life after fitting her with custom braces to help correct bone abnormalities and increase her mobility. Thanks to an incredible collaboration with the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and the combined team’s swift action to design a customized treatment plan, Msituni’s legs were correctly positioned within a few weeks, and she has been successfully reintroduced to the other giraffes at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Welcome home, Msituni – it has been an honor to help you

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The lifesaving braces made from carbon graphite were able to support the correct position of her legs. Ara Mirzaian, a certified orthotist at the Hanger Clinic designed them using cast moldings of the calf’s legs.

Msituni also had a few other medical challenges that required intravenous antibiotics and the creation of specialized hoof extenders to accommodate the irregular position of her front legs, however 39 days later, Msituni’s future looked grand.

Ultimately, the treatments were a success: Msituni is no longer receiving antibiotics, the braces have been removed, and her legs are now correctly positioned—which is leading to her attaining a healthy weight and height. The calf has done so well, the wildlife care team introduced her to the rest of the giraffe herd in the Safari Park’s 60-acre East Africa savanna habitat, including another adult female, named Yamikani (pronounced ya me caanee), and her female calf, Nuru (pronounced nu roo). Nuru was born 4 days after Msituni.

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As Msituni bonds with the herd, she will be able to learn the behaviors of being a young giraffe.

Scientist estimate there are less than 100,000 giraffes left in the wild; their populations have decreased 40 percent in the last 20 years. Between the loss of their habitats and poaching, it is feared one day these beautiful animals will be seriously endangered.

(Photos via San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance)

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