Roger Williams Park Zoo performs procedure on giraffe to care for chronic hoof issues

Jaffa, a 12-year-old male Masai giraffe at Roger Williams Park Zoo, is recovering from a procedure to care for his chronic hoof issues, a common finding in older giraffes. At 18 ft tall and weighing 2800 lbs, Jaffa’s treatment called for a team of 45 animal care specialists.

Veterinary staff from the Columbus Zoo, Omaha Zoo, Zoo New England, and the Tufts University veterinary anesthesia department, along with farrier Steve Foxworth of the Zoo Hoofstock Trim Program and his team, worked with the Zoo veterinary team and keepers during this complicated procedure.
Though the primary goal of the procedure was to trim his overgrown hooves, this also offered an opportunity to conduct full physical and dental examinations, blood collection, and leg radiographs. During the procedure, Jaffa’s head and neck were carefully supported and kept elevated, his body was constantly massaged to stimulate blood flow and prevent muscle cramps, and he received oxygen through a specialized ventilator.

The hard work and preparations of the animal care team were successful. After the reversal drugs were administered, Jaffa was able to stand without needing additional assistance and is recovering well.
Jaffa is in good overall health, other than arthritis which is common in aging giraffes. His foot overgrowth was corrected, and no other serious hoof issues were identified, but ongoing maintenance including possible future procedures will be required to ensure his long-term hoof health.

Like human fingernails, the outer part of a hoof called the hoof wall, is made of keratin. Like human nails, hooves continuously grow and benefit from regular trimming. The goal is always to get the hooves in the ideal shape, which allows them to bear their weight properly between all feet. If a giraffe is bearing their weight improperly due to the shape of their hooves, this can have impacts on its gait, how its muscles are used, and how much strain is put on its bones and joints.

“Fully anesthetizing a giraffe is a complicated and risky procedure requiring coordination between many zoo departments and benefiting from outside specialists. In Jaffa’s case, his immense size and chronic foot condition made the procedure even more challenging. We are grateful for the collaboration and coordination between many zoo departments and a host of outside specialists that allowed this procedure to be a success,” said Dr. Kim Wojick, the Zoo’s senior veterinarian.



Like Newport Buzz? We depend on the generosity of readers like you who support us, to help with our mission to keep you informed and entertained with local, independent news and content. We truly appreciate your trust and support!