Zoo Miami giraffe undergoes successful series of procedures

MIAMI – An 11-year-old reticulated giraffe named Pongo from Zoo Miami underwent a series of successful procedures over the weekend.

Zoo Miami’s Ron Magill said Saturday’s procedures were to address the critical lameness that Pongo had developed over the last several weeks, which significantly restricted his mobility and caused him debilitating pain while going about his day-to-day activities, despite medication to help ease the pain.

It took more than two dozen people, including veterinarians, veterinary technicians, zookeepers and farriers, to immobilize the giraffe and perform the procedures.

Pongo’s treatment included X-rays, hoof trimming, the shaping and attachment of custom rubber shoes, laser therapy, and the collection of blood and tissue samples.

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Photo courtesy: Ron Magill/Zoo Miami

According to a Zoo Miami news release, Pongo stands at more than 16 feet tall and weighs close to 2,000 pounds.

“Because of a giraffe’s extraordinary anatomy and size, the greatest challenge was safely immobilizing Pongo and keeping him under anesthesia while maintaining his vital signs at a healthy level,” the news release stated. “Generally speaking, adult giraffes are considered to be one of the most challenging animals to anesthetize and death as a result of not being able to recover from anesthesia is a serious risk. For this reason, the decision to immobilize Pongo was challenging but necessary because without being able to perform the procedures prescribed, euthanasia may have had to be considered.”

X-rays showed that Pongo had a recent fracture on his left rear foot and an old fracture on his front right foot.

He received laser therapy and was fitted for custom shoes.

According to the news release, Animal Science staff massaged Pongo’s neck and body to stimulate blood flow throughout the time he was under anesthesia.

Pongo has since made a full recovery from his anesthesia and has been reunited with the rest of the herd at Zoo Miami.

It is expected to take several weeks for the fracture to heal, so Pongo will be closely monitored over the next few months.

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