Zoo Giraffe Enjoys Regular Pedicures

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Standing out from the crowd has taken on a whole new meaning for Thorn, the tallest giraffe at England’s Chester zoo. Thorn gets daily pedicures from zookeepers, and unlike other giraffes that take anesthetics for similar treatment, he goes into each session wide awake.So how does this Rothschild giraffe stay unruffled during the procedure? Zookeepers use a pioneering training technique that involves voice commands and food rewards to get Thorn to cooperate. Over the past 12 months since they first started the process, Thorn has learned to stay put for 10 to 15 minutes at a time.

“At first it took some getting used to,” keeper Lizzie Bowen says of Thorn’s reaction to the pedicures. “It took us six months before we trained him to rest his foot long enough for us to be able to rasp his foot.” But Thorn grew increasingly comfortable with the presence of zoo staff. “He remains calm around them. It has become part of his routine now,”

Good thing Thorn has adapted so well – these regular groomings are not a luxury but a necessity. “His hoof would have overgrown which could have led him to have difficulties and put pressure on his joints, possibly leading to conditions such as arthritis,” says Bowen. Keepers use a special large file normally used for wood to trim the hooves of Thorn, who stands about 16 feet tall and was born in Edinburgh Zoo in 2001.

Chester may begin similar training techniques with some of Thorn’s female peers, though not necessarily for pedicures.

“We found training Thorn a challenge, but what we have achieved is very rewarding,” says Bowen. “We have minimized the risk to Thorn as we no longer need to anesthetize him. That is a huge relief for the team.”

(source)

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