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Denver Zoo's initial crowdfunding would prove beneficial for giraffes

posted Oct 17, 2014, 1:15 AM by J Shaw   [ updated Oct 17, 2014, 1:15 AM ]

Think getting a kid to sit still for a blood draw or even just a clipping of their fingernails is a chore? Try doing it with a 3,000-pound, 18-foot-tall giraffe.

Thus, the concept behind the Safe Nurturing Upright Gateway for Giraffes, or SNUGG, a new project at the Denver Zoo.

SNUGG is a customized corral that securely holds the tall mammals so that zookeepers and veterinarians can perform tests and necessary upkeep.

It's a better giraffe trap, so to speak — and officials are asking the public for help by crowdfunding the project, which is a first for the zoo.

SNUGG is a large, padded, weatherproof chute into which zookeepers can lure giraffes and secure them safely for medical care and other health procedures.

Currently, zookeepers use food and positive reinforcement to pen a giraffe into an indoor, gated "restraint chute." In this position, zookeepers can do hands-on work such as cleaning the animals' hooves, and veterinarians can do routine health checks from ground level.


SNUGG changes that.
However, this method does not allow access to all areas of the animal, which can be troublesome for an animal as large as a giraffe.

"We would be able to do full physical exams, collect blood, assess his eyes, his ears, his neck, work on all sides of him. And if we needed to do a more involved procedure we would be able to access all of him," said zoo veterinarian Betsy Stringer.

There are a handful of companies that design various contraptions to provide care for large animals. Most designs are one-size-fits-animal and involve gating the animal in a pen or a narrow enclosure. SNUGG, however, can be modified for giraffes of any size.

SNUGG was conceptualized in-house by design engineer Brian Williams. The planning process involved extensive research of best practices from other zoos, such as Colorado Springs' Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, which has a herd of 18 giraffes, and input from a core team of zookeepers and veterinarians to create a wish list of features.

Once it's time to build, all will be done in-house.

An artist’s rendering shows the Safe Nurturing Upright Gateway for Giraffes, or SNUGG, which would allow zookeepers to provide safe medical care to

"We have in-house ability for design and for some very advanced manufacturing processes, so we can bring that all together and do something unique for us," Williams said. "It was designed by the zoo and the zoo's team, and will be fabricated and put in place by the zoo, not tapping into any external resources other than the research."

SNUGG's basic concept could be modified for other large animals and could potentially turn into a future revenue source for the zoo, Williams said.

"In the way that some of the SNUGG's doors move and lock and do what they're going to do, there's some (intellectual property) in that," he said. "So if other zoos came and visited and saw it and really liked what it did, and if it fit their needs, we do have the ability to do that for another zoo if that's something they want to explore."

As far as nonprofits go, the Denver Zoo has a healthy bottom line, with total annual income of $34.4 million, according to its 2013 report.

Past fundraising efforts at the zoo have focused on individual animals or larger exhibit needs.

SNUGG marks the first time the zoo has appealed to the public for a specific piece of equipment that brings the behind-the-scenes animal care aspect into the public eye.

Hanna Yaritz, major gifts planning coordinator, said it was a great project to test the crowdfunding waters.

"We didn't have one individual donor that was strongly passionate enough. We've had lots of significant gifts come in already for this project, but to ask someone for $60,000 for a specific device is a lot," she said. "This is definitely a test to track the progress and see what works and what doesn't."

David Bratvold of industry publication Daily Crowdsource, said that although crowdfunding has made a splash in recent years for gadgets and art projects, larger companies are just getting on board.

He praises it as a solid business move, but not for the reasons that may first come to mind.

"Most look at it like a great way to raise money, but behind it is also market-demand testing," Bratvold said. "Do you want it enough to pay for it? Very quickly you can find out if your whole plan is relevant."

In other words, if the zoo's campaign doesn't raise any money, it's an indicator that the people of Denver don't really find value in giraffe care.

Harsh, but true.

But if they do buy in? People take ownership in that item and will then purchase zoo tickets to see it, which is a winning situation for the zoo, Bratvold said.

The zoo has raised almost $34,000 of the $60,000 price tag.

The timeline for SNUGG's installation is about two months from beginning of construction, depending on weather. The goal is to have it in place by early next year.

Posted from : http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_26728983/denver-zoos-initial-crowdfunding-would-prove-beneficial-giraffes