Laurie J. Gage, DVM, DACZM
There have been approximately 20 giraffe deaths in the United States between September 2009 and April 2011. Husbandry, nutrition, or management decisions accounted for over 75% of these deaths, suggesting many were preventable. Other giraffes have suffered with overgrown hooves which affected their gait, cold stress from inadequate housing, serious injuries sustained during transport, or from exhibit design-related problems.
Giraffes have specialized dietary and housing needs which must be met to ensure welfare of these animals. They tend to have more complications and anesthetic-related deaths than other Artiodactyla. Applying training-based methods to deal with overgrown hooves, solving thermoregulation-related problems using appropriate housing and inclement weather turn-out protocols, and ensuring the specific nutritional requirements of giraffes are met would help to improve their quality of life and may help to decrease the alarming mortality rate seen in recent years.
1. Potter, J.S., and M. Class. 2005. Mortality of captive giraffe (Giraffa cameleopardis) associated with serous fat atrophy: a review of five cases at Auckland Zoo. J Zoo and Wildlife Med. 36(2):301–307.