Custom Leg Brace Gives Adorable Giraffe Calf A New Lease On Life

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Msituni, a four-month-old giraffe at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, was born with a leg abnormality (Credit: San Diego Zoo Safari Park)

A four-month-old giraffe calf at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, California, is finally standing tall thanks to a custom brace. Msituni, which means "in the forest" in Swahili, was born on Feb. 1, 2022, with her front legs bending improperly. The abnormality put a lot of pressure on the calf's joints and bones, making it hard for Msituni to nurse or walk around her enclosed habitat. Zoo officials worried that the calf would probably die if the condition was left untreated.

Custom braces helped fix Msituni's legs within two months (Credit: San Diego Zoo Safari Park)

The experts initially tried to resolve the issue by fitting the baby giraffe with off-the-shelf medical-grade braces. However, after they proved ineffective, the experts reached out to Dr. Ara Mirzaian at San Diego's Hanger Clinic. The experienced clinician has been creating custom braces for humans for over three decades. But he had never worked with a giraffe before.

"It was pretty surreal when I first heard about it," Mirzaian told The Associated Press. "Of course, all I did was go online and study giraffes for like 24/7 until we got out here."

Mirzaian knew that the braces would need to have a wide range of motion and be durable. He reached out to a company that specializes in making braces for horses. It took the company just eight days to create a custom brace for Msituni using carbon graphite. The lightweight material is five times stronger than steel and can withstand a lot of pressure from patient use.

Msituni can now walk on her forelimbs without any discomfort (Credit: San Diego Zoo Safari Park)

The braces helped correct Msituni's condition, and, within two months, she was able to walk on her own. The calf now spends her days prancing around the park's 60-acre East Africa savanna habitat with the rest of the giraffes.

Msituni is not the first animal that owes its life to the experts at the Hanger Clinic. They also created the prosthetic tail for Winter, the world's most beloved bottlenose dolphin. The feat was the focus of the 2011 super hit movie "Dolphin Tale," with Winter in the starring role.

Resources: Sandiegozoo.org, People.com, theGuardian.com

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