Success of veterinary training with giraffes in Oasis Park Fuerteventura

Tuesday, 23 February, 2016
Oasis Park Fuerteventura is filled with moving stories, such as Émolo, one of our giraffes.
Émolo reached OPF in 2004 from Hungary with a birth injury in her right front leg, she was part of a family group that Oasis Park Fuerteventura did not want to separate her from. Since then Émolo has enjoyed a quiet life without complications, having given birth to four treasures: Yaiza, Rio, Dreamer and Elvis. But over time the injury has worsened for Émolo making her walk much slower.
Advised by professionals from different countries, our vet team has opted for a treatment that is more safe and effective for her in the long term. For this treatment to be carried out Émolo would previously have needed training to accept veterinarians having access to her leg. With time and helped by the evidence produced from testing, you can make a prosthesis that will improve her quality of life and reduce the consequences of this injury.
Before starting the training a new installation was fitted out for her and her latest calf, which allowed them to have easy access to their food and drink. Once they were in the new installation, our colleague Miguel Ángel began work initiating the training process.
The goal for Miguel Ángel is to get Émolo to allow the veterinarians to approach her to take x-rays, file her hooves or even take blood for analysis. The training process is long and requires patience but every day small gains are achieved thanks to the good work of his coach and the willingness of Émolo. After 6 months of training, Émolo touches the target * with his head and with the affected limb, which makes us proud to say that her training has been a success.
The next step in training is marked desensitisation contact; you start with very light touches then increasing pressure to make Émolo tolerate human contact on her affected limb.
Training the animals is an essential part of the animal welfare programs; also it facilitates the daily management necessary so we can work in conditions of adequate security for both the animal and the caregiver. Any training program is designed taking into account not only the species but also more individual factors such as past experiences or the tastes of each animal.
We will keep you informed of the progress of Émolo and Miguel Ángel, we are confident there will be many updates to come. 
* Target: the target is a point of reference that we present to the animal that helps us to direct their behavior. It may be an artificial element such as a stick with a ball on the end or just our own hand.