Thursday, 28 July 2011

Baby giraffe walks for first time after special shoes cure 'back-to-front' feet

You would not expect the tallest creature on the planet to need a set of heels, but this baby giraffe had to wear special customised ‘shoes’ for more than a year after being born with ‘back-to-front’ rear feet.

Now, thanks to the pioneering treatment, young Hope has walked unaided for the first time in her life.

The African mammal was born with a rare deformity called hyperextended fetlocks, meaning each rear foot was bent forwards – the equivalent of humans walking on their ankles rather than their heels.

Zoo vet Joseph Kramer fitted her with plywood shoes with extended ‘heels’ and an artificial tendon glued to the bottom of her rear hooves.

Hope wore them for 12 months while her front tendons stretched enough to let her walk unaided.

It was the first time the procedure had been carried out on a giraffe. She is now happy at home in Topeka Zoo, Kansas, where a spokesman said: ‘It is fantastic to see Hope walking completely normally now. One of her favourite things to do is chase squirrels and birds.

‘Right from the beginning, her mum, Dolly, was so supportive. We had to separate Hope from her mum while the procedure was carried out but she watched over the fence the whole time.’

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