News | 26 March 2021
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Zahara the giraffe visits the dentist

Did you hear the one about the giraffe that went to the dentist?

No, neither did we. But that’s exactly what happened at Wellington Zoo when Zahara the giraffe was given some new training in getting quick and easy tooth x-rays.

Zahara the giraffe gets a tooth x-ray at Wellington Zoo.

The new dental check method allows Zahara to remain conscious throughout the essential procedure, and means the Zoo team can better look after her health by tracking and mapping any changes to Zahara’s teeth as she gets older. 

Zahara has just turned 17, which is considered ‘middle-age’ for a giraffe. 

“As older age sets in, so too can all sorts of health complaints,” says Glyn Avery, Team Leader of Herbivores and Birds at Wellington Zoo

“And when you spend most of your life eating, you can reasonably expect to see some wear and tear to occur in your teeth.” 

Zahara the giraffe gets a tooth x-ray at Wellington Zoo.

Giraffes spend up to 20 hours a day feeding, but you’re unlikely to catch them sleeping it off – giraffes sleep the least of any mammal, and only need between 10 minutes and two hours of sleep each day. 

The Herbivore Keepers and Veterinarian team at Wellington Zoo have a fantastic relationship with Zahara. 

Through their mutual trust they were able to target train her to participate in this excerise in exchange for a treat of lettuce and carrots. 

Zahara the giraffe gets a tooth x-ray at Wellington Zoo.

“Zahara is a superstar when it comes to training, she has a natural curiosity for anything new we introduce to her, so it makes it easy to get her to take part in her own health care.”  

In the future the team will take further x-rays and compare them to the ones they’ve just taken. 

They will also monitor Zahara’s weight and appetite closely, as these are other clues about her dental health and overall condition.  

If the team notice any changes early on, they may be able to take steps to prevent or slow down decline, such as modifying Zahara’s diet or making food more accessible to her. 

Zahara the giraffe gets a tooth x-ray at Wellington Zoo.

The Zoo is home to three giraffes – Zahara, Zuri and Sunny. 

Sunny, a young male, is the newest arrival, coming to Wellington from a zoo in Australia in 2019. 

He joined Zahara and Zuri, two female aunt and niece giraffes. 

Want to get even closer? Meet and feed our giraffes in a Close Encounter, bookings can be made on the Zoo’s Experiences page.