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03 / 05 / 2018
How to x-ray a giraffe

So how do you go about x-raying one of the tallest animals in the world?
 
It was question faced by animal keepers and vets at Wild Place Project.
 
Their biggest giraffe, Gerry, who stands more than 4 metres (13 feet) had a swollen right hind fetlock.
 
He needed to be x-rayed and so keepers spent weeks training Gerry to walk calmly into a specially designed crush and to stand still.
 
Animal manager Will Walker said: “We had to get to a point where he was comfortable with us working around his legs.
 
“We reward him with tasty treats for doing these training sessions and he is always keen to take part.”
 
Bristol Zoological Society, which owns and runs Wild Place Project, has its own portable x-Ray equipment.
 
So after Gerry was guided into the crush veterinary nurse Teresa Horspool carefully positioned the machine on one side of Gerry’s right hind leg while Will held a large x-ray plate on the other.
 
As Gerry stood quietly she took a series of four x-rays. The whole process took just 10 minutes.
 
In a few days’ time Will said they were planning to x-ray his other hind leg to offer a comparison.
 
Will said Gerry had developed a slight swelling in his right hind fetlock not long after he arrived at Wild Place Project from Holland last year.
 
There were concerns that Gerry, now almost four-years-old, had developed an infection but this was ruled out after he was examined under general anaesthetic last September.
 
Will said: “The swelling didn’t reduce so we decided we would train him to be comfortable with both x-rays and ultrasound.
 
“This allows us to get to the bottom of the cause of the swelling without the need for sedatives and stress.”
 
Meanwhile Gerry, who is one of three giraffe that live in a £1 million purpose built giraffe house at Wild Place Project, is continuing to have daily training sessions in the crush so keepers can keep a close check on him.
 
Giraffe like Gerry are really important because in the wild their numbers have fallen from 140,000 to less than 80,000 in just 15 years. There are now fewer giraffe left in the wild than African elephants.
 
The giraffe house at Wild Place Project is linked to a conservation project to save one of the few remaining populations of Central African giraffe left in the wild.
 
Experts from Bristol Zoological Society are involved in critical research effort to map the location of some of the remaining Kordofan giraffe in Cameroon, using camera traps and drones.