Baby Giraffe “Yao” Has Life Threatening Infection

© Houston Zoo/Stephanie AdamsHouston Zoo veterinarians assisted by a Houston equine orthopedic specialist are treating Yao, a Masai giraffe born at the Zoo on Monday February 25 for a life threatening bone infection.

One week after Yao’s birth, keepers noticed he was favoring his rear left leg.  Yao and his mother Neema were kept in a separate stall for observation of what appeared to be a minor sprain that would improve with rest.  When the limp gradually became worse the Zoo veterinary staff x-rayed the leg and found no evidence of bone damage.  He was put on antibiotics and other preventative medication including anti-inflammatory analgesics.

This past weekend keepers observed Yao limping on his front leg.  An equine orthopedic specialist, Dr. Wyatt Winchell of Brazos Valley Equine Hospital was called in to examine the calf.  Dr. Winchell determined that Yao had developed a bone infection in his right shoulder and immediately began an aggressive treatment regime that included flushing the joint, arthroscopic surgery to remove some tissue and infected bone and administering stronger antibiotics.

“Similar cases in domestic animals are difficult to treat and correct but we are doing everything possible to give him a chance to recover,” said Dr. Winchell.   “He is being kept inside the giraffe barn with his mother Neema and receiving excellent round-the-clock care from his keepers and veterinarians,” added Dr. Winchell.

“Yao has quite an uphill battle ahead of him.  We ask that everyone please keep Yao in their thoughts and prayers,” said Houston Zoo Director Rick Barongi.   Sixteen Masai giraffe have been born at the Houston Zoo over the past 12 years.