Serum chemistry analyses were compared between captive and free-ranging giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis) in an attempt to better understand some of the medical issues seen with captive giraffes. Illnesses, including peracute mortality, energy malnutrition, pancreatic disease, urolithiasis, hoof disease, and severe intestinal parasitism, may be related to zoo nutrition and management issues. Serum samples were collected from 20 captive giraffes at 10 United States institutions. Thirteen of the captive animal samples were collected from animals trained for blood collection; seven were banked samples obtained from a previous serum collection. These samples were compared with serum samples collected from 24 free-ranging giraffes in South Africa. Differences between captive and free-ranging giraffes, males and females, and adults and subadults were analyzed by using a 2 × 2 × 2 factorial and Fisher's least significant difference for mean separation; when necessary variables were ranked and analyzed via analysis of variance. Potassium and bilirubin concentrations and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) activities were different between captive and free-ranging giraffes, but all fell within normal bovid reference ranges. The average glucose concentration was significantly elevated in free-ranging giraffes (161 mg/dl) compared with captive giraffes (113 mg/dl). All giraffes in this study had glucose concentrations higher than bovine (42–75 mg/dl) and caprine (48–76 mg/dl) reference ranges. Differences were also seen in lipase, chloride, and magnesium though these findings are likely not clinically significant. There were no differences detected between sexes. Adults had higher concentrations of potassium, total protein, globulins, and chloride and higher gamma glutamyltransferase activities, whereas subadults had higher concentrations of phosphorus. Within the captive group, nonimmobilized animals had higher concentrations of total protein and globulins. Captive giraffe diets need further investigation to determine if the differences seen in this study, especially glucose and bilirubin concentrations and ALT activities, may result in some health problems often seen in captive giraffes.
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