The Use of Controlled Induction to Minimize Traumatic Injury to Reticulated Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata) Using Thiafentanil, Medetomidine, and Ketamine
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2012

Timothy Storms, DVM; Janis Raines, DVM; Maren Connolly, DVM

Dallas Zoo, Dallas, TX, USA


In the last 5 yr, thirteen full immobilizations of eight reticulated giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata) (340–914 kg) were performed, for either castrations or significant corrective hoof trimming. All giraffe were immobilized with thiafentanil (0.44–1.18 µg/kg), medetomidine (0.9–2.4 µg/kg), and ketamine (0.55–1.62 mg/kg) administered in a single dart. Occasional intraprocedural supplementation with guaifenesin (0.4% in NaCl) was used, by continuous-rate intravenous infusion administered to effect. In eleven of these immobilizations, giraffes were darted while confined in a pen with chain-link fence walls and decomposed granite substrate and allowed to become recumbent without intervention. Inductions were generally rapid and uneventful. However, two juvenile males suffered mandibular fractures after colliding with the fence or ground while becoming recumbent.

An in-path giraffe restraint device was subsequently utilized for controlled induction of two juvenile male giraffe. The Dallas Zoo restraint device is positioned within a pathway that the giraffe must traverse to exit the barn. It has elevated catwalks on the sides, a manual locking push-wall, and a hinged opposite wall that swings out to a 90-degree position, allowing manual manipulation of the recumbent giraffe out of the device. In each case the giraffe was darted after entering the restraint device and being closed within it by closing a sliding door. A halter, eye cover, and ear plugs were placed on the head as early as the giraffe would tolerate it. A lead rope was passed over an overhead-mounted pulley, which aided control of the giraffe’s head as the giraffe dropped into sternal position. Once the giraffe was able to be safely manipulated, the side wall was opened while maintaining head control, and personnel entered to support and manipulate the giraffe. An endotracheal tube was inserted, ropes and straps were placed under and around the body, and the giraffe was moved out through the open side wall of the device into an adjacent open stall to complete the procedure.

The risks of giraffe immobilization have been well-documented and include both induction hazards and anesthetic complications.1-8 Most potential induction period problems involve self-trauma while becoming recumbent. If the facility design, management will, and staff expertise allow, the use of a restraint device for controlled induction is recommended to minimize these complications.2,5,6


The authors gratefully acknowledge the veterinary and animal staff members at the Dallas Zoo.

Literature Cited

1.  Bush, M. 1993a. Anesthesia of high-risk animals: giraffe. In: Fowler, M.E. (ed.). Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine Current Therapy 3. W.B. Saunders Co., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 545–549.

2.  Bush, M. 1993b. Giraffidae. In: Fowler, M.E., and R.E. Miller (eds.). Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine, 5th ed. W.B. Saunders Co., St. Louis, Missouri. 625–633.

3.  Bush, M. D.G. Grobler, and J.P. Raath. 2002. The art and science of giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) immobilization/anesthesia. International Veterinary Information Service (

4.  Bush, M., D.G. Grobler, J.P. Raath, L.G. Phillips, M.A. Stamper, and W.R. Lance. 2001. Use of medetomidine and ketamine for immobilization of free-ranging giraffes. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 218: 245–249.

5.  Calle, P.P., and J.C. Bornmann. 1988. Giraffe restraint, habituation, and desensitization at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Zoo Biol. 7: 243–252.

6.  Citino, S.B., and M. Bush. 2007. Giraffidae. In: West, G., D. Heard, and N. Caulkett (eds.). Zoo Animal and Wildlife Immobilization and Anesthesia. Ames, Iowa. 595–605.

7.  Citino, S.B., M. Bush, W.R. Lance, M. Jofmeyr, and D. Grobler. 2006. Use of thiafentanil (A3080), medetomidine, and ketamine for anesthesia of captive and free-ranging giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis). Proc Am Assoc Zoo Vet Annu Conf. 211-213.

8.  Lamberski, N., A. Newell, and R. Radcliffe. 2004. Thirty immobilizations of captive giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) using a combination of medetomidine and ketamine. Proc Am Assoc Zoo Vet Am Assoc of Wildl Vet, and Wildl Dis Assoc Annu Conf. 121–123.


Speaker Information
(click the speaker's name to view other papers and abstracts submitted by this speaker)

Timothy Storms, DVM
Dallas Zoo
Dallas, TX, USA

MAIN : AAZV Conference : Induction to Minimize Injury to Reticulated Giraffe
Powered By VIN