ESCONDIDO (AP) — Over the past three decades Ara Mirzaian has fitted braces for everyone from Paralympians to children with scoliosis. But Msituni was a patient like none other — a newborn giraffe.
The calf was born Feb. 1 at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, north of San Diego, with her front limb bending the wrong way. Safari park staff feared she could die if they didn’t immediately correct the condition, which could prevent her from nursing and walking around the habitat.
But they had no experience with fitting a baby giraffe in a brace. That proved especially challenging given she was a 5-foot-10-inch-tall (178-centimeter) newborn and growing taller every day. So, they reached out to experts in orthotics at the Hanger Clinic, where Mirzaian landed his very first animal patient.
“It was pretty surreal when I first heard about it,” Mirzaian told The Associated Press this week during a tour to meet Msituni, who was strutting alongside the other giraffes with no troubles. “Of course, all I did was go online and study giraffes for like 24/7 until we got out here.”
Zoos increasingly are turning to medical professionals who treat people to find solutions for ailing animals. The collaboration has been especially helpful in the field of prosthetics and orthotics. Earlier this year, ZooTampa in Florida teamed up with similar experts to successfully replace the beak of a cancer-stricken great hornbill bird with a 3D-printed prosthetic.