Our veterinary team and keepers have noticed that our favourite big guy Tibor has sadly been a little out of sorts lately. Our care teams know Tibor has an existing dental problem, we want to X-ray him to obtain more information about this problem. Usually, as we know, X-rays would take place under anaesthetic.
Anaesthetics make the patients weak, wobbly and unco-ordinated – as they drift off to sleep a giraffe loses control of how (or the speed) at which they lay down, potentially falling awkwardly. As they begin to come round following the procedure they remain disoriented and weak, not understanding the weakness will pass they can panic and struggle to get to their feet, still under the influence of the anaesthetic they become tired very quickly, exhausted and stressed with potential for damage to themselves.
Anaesthetising a giraffe is risky, but we still need to find out what’s wrong – so what can we do!? Is there an alternative?
Here you see keeper Nick working with Tibor at positive reinforcement target training using a training stick and a clicker. As Tibor touches the ball, the clicker sounds and he receives a tasty treat. As training progresses, the distance and position of the target is varied and the length of “touch” is extended to reflect the length of time he will need to be still to obtain an X-ray. A mock-up of the X-ray situation will be laid out including X-ray plates, cords and a box the size of the X-ray machine itself will be set up for training sessions ahead of the procedure to ensure Tibor is comfortable with his surroundings before the actual procedure takes place.
This training means we should be able to take x-rays of Tibor without need for a sedative or anaesthetic, something that is very risky in any giraffe, and particularly in an old chap like Tibor. Similar techniques are being used which should hopefully lead to Tibor allowing us to take a blood sample.
This is just an insight of the dedicated and amazing work our animal care teams carry out here at Safari Zoo on a daily basis.
Keep tuned for updates from Tibor and his care teams 💕 🦒