TOPEKA, Kan - Topeka Zoo guests have been following the recovery progress for 9-year-old reticulated giraffe, Abi, over the past three years. In 2019, Abi injured her left front fetlock. The fetlock is a joint similar to a human’s ankle. After presenting symptoms from the injury to staff, Abi received treatment immediately. At that time Abi’s treatment options were limited to oral medications and stall rest.

Over the past few years Abi has undergone several treatments to reduce swelling around the joint. Veterinary Staff have been able to administer injections into the joint, apply ice packs and medicated compresses and utilize cold laser therapy. Abi participates in all of these procedures voluntarily through training that was developed since her initial injury. Guests and viewers of the TopZooKTWU Giraffe Cameras have been able to follow this journey. Currently, Abi has a large brace on her injured leg to help with joint stabilization.

“Thanks to the hard work of our large-mammal team, we have been able to work with Abi through positive reinforcement training to a point that she will now voluntarily present her front foot and allow us to examine and manipulate.” says Animal Curator, Wrylie Guffey. “These behaviors really opened opportunities for our veterinary team by allowing for more detailed diagnostics and more direct treatments such as applying ointments and splints.”

The joint has gradually become unstable, concerning animal care staff that Abi may reach a point where the joint completely breaks down, leaving her unable to bear weight on that leg.

“Our whole team has been working with experts in our field to help determine what the next best step is for Abi. She is such an amazing giraffe to work with and I’m
so proud of what our team has been able to accomplish,” said Guffey. “While we cannot be certain what will or will not help, we are monitoring her welfare daily and will continue to provide excellent care for Abi during this process.”

“At this point, we know that the problem in Abi’s joint can’t be reversed,” said Zoo Director Brendan Wiley. “The challenge now is providing an adaptation that will accommodate her condition and maintain a good quality of life. We still have some options to work through. Right now, we will keep the brace on and give her stall rest.”

The Topeka Zoo is currently building a new giraffe experience on the south and east side of the zoo. The experience will include a new modern 10,000 sq ft indoor giraffe housing facility. That facility has been designed specifically to meet the health needs of giraffes. The facility will include a medical training area and the majority of the floors will have natural substrates to promote joint and leg health. The zoo anticipates that the giraffe will move to the new facility late summer or early fall of this year.