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Cincinnati Zoo staff gets 'notoriously nervous' giraffes ready for much-needed mani-pedis

Posted at 4:56 PM, Feb 12, 2021

CINCINNATI — Giraffes need -- and deserve -- pampering, too.

OK, it's not exactly pampering when it comes to hoof trimming for the animals. It's a task that takes years of work to make possible.

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden announced Friday its team has succeeded in conditioning the zoo's five giraffes to allow handlers to trim their hooves, an important element of their care that doesn't come easily.

It took "hundreds of hours and thousands of crackers" to teach the animals how to participate in their own foot care, said zoo spokesperson Michelle Curley in a news release.

"Giraffes are known to be nervous and skittish, so getting one to offer a foot and stand still while it’s being touched and handled by a keeper is no small accomplishment," the release indicated.

Zoo director Thayne Maynard explains the process in this video:

"The hoof-trimming procedure doesn’t hurt, but it’s not exactly a pampering experience like a human pedicure!" said zoo director Thayne Maynard. "The fact that our giraffe team...has been able to teach all five of our giraffes, including two young males, to allow their feet to be handled is truly remarkable."

The zoo's primary giraffe trainer, Teresa Truesdale, said a lack of hoof care can pose serious health problems.

"Our goal is to make sure that the giraffes are comfortable and active,” she said. “Hoof overgrowth can lead to broken bones, torn ligaments, and general pain that ultimately discourages movement.”

The training took place over the span of more than a year, Maynard said. In 2019, the zoo recruited Steve Foxworth, an expert in hoof care for large and small hooved mammals. That training with zookeepers is ongoing.