Immobilisation protocols for wild giraffe (Giraffa spp.) – a review



anaesthesia, Giraffa, giraffe, immobilisation, protocol, techniques, capture


Background: Immobilisation of wild giraffe (Giraffa spp.) is challenging due to their unique anatomy and physiology. Field immobilisations are required for numerous conservation, tourism, and veterinary purposes. Wild giraffe immobilisation techniques have evolved considerably from physical to chemical with ultrapotent drugs.

Objective: To provide a detailed overview of historic and present protocols used for immobilising giraffe in the wild as a valuable resource tool for future research into best practices.

Methods: A systematic review was undertaken of the published literature on wild giraffe capture and immobilisation techniques with no restrictions on publication date.

Results: The review detailed the evolution of capture techniques used for wild giraffe. The trend has moved from purely physical capture in the 1950s to the use of high dose ultrapotent opioids or a combination of opioids and alpha-2 agonists and/or tranquilisers. With a better understanding of giraffe physiology and wild giraffe capture, mortality rates have decreased significantly from ~ 35% to < 1%.

Conclusion: The advent of ultrapotent opioids has caused a paradigm shift in wildlife immobilisation, especially for wild giraffe. While the use of these drugs, as sole immobilisation agents or in combination with alpha-2 agonists or tranquilisers, has greatly reduced mortality rates associated with wild giraffe immobilisations, there is a startling lack of physiological data evaluating the impact of these drugs on giraffe during and after immobilisation. Future research should focus on measuring physiological variables to determine the impact and best practice of these protocols on wild giraffe immobilisation.

Author Biographies

  • S Ferguson, Giraffe Conservation Foundation

    Giraffe Conservation Foundation, Namibia

  • RJ Harvey

    Independent wildlife veterinarian, United Kingdom

  • S Fennessy, Giraffe Conservation Foundation

    Giraffe Conservation Foundation, Namibia

  • J Fennessy, Giraffe Conservation Foundation

    Giraffe Conservation Foundation, Namibia