Ties to Africa: Baby giraffe named by WSU veterinary students

By Charlie Powell, WSU College of Veterinary Medicine

Giraffe-80PULLMAN, Wash. – At seven weeks of age, he’s already 8 feet tall. Misawa (me-SAW-wah), the newest baby giraffe at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, received his name Thursday from the results of a poll taken among Washington State University veterinary students. The privilege of naming the playful giraffe was extended first to veterinary Dean Bryan Slinker who in turn made it a poll for the students.

“Misawa” is a common greeting in Luo, the primary language spoken in Tanzania and Southwest Kenya near Kisumu. Some recognize the word as meaning “peace.”

“The zoo extended an extraordinary privilege to name Misawa to WSU’s veterinary program,” said Slinker. “I felt it was only fitting that we use the opportunity reflect our work not only with the Woodland Park Zoo but also in Africa and at the same time provide a small diversion for our students.”

Protecting people, animals, livelihoods

Students and faculty from the Paul G. Allen School of Global Animal Health based at WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine are familiar with the African region and language because of cooperative programs installed there in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) in Nairobi, according to Slinker.

Giraffe-eats-400In Kenya, animals outnumber humans by more than 20 million. Most families live on less than $2 a day where, ironically, cell phone service penetration is higher than in many parts of the U.S.

People and animals live close together. This puts people at greater risk of contracting infectious diseases from their animals, known as zoonosis. Zoonotic disease may cause diarrhea, fever or other potentially life-threatening symptoms in people. 

Because the livelihood of these families depends on healthy livestock as a primary asset, controlling animal disease is also essential for their overall welfare. WSU is conducting community-level surveys of household income/wealth and of household health syndromes coupled with livestock health syndromes occurring among the same households. 

Tracking illness for prompt intervention

Data is collected from up to 6,000 people encompassing 1,500 households using smartphones provided by researchers. The information is uploaded for data processing in near real time. Rapid data collection at known intervals increases the ability to make a complete and accurate diagnosis in order to dispatch healthcare teams – human or animal.

 Seeing disease develop almost in real time also allows researchers to see patterns of illness among people as well as their animals and design interventions that may prevent, control or eradicate diseases. WSU economists Tom Marsh and Jon Yoder are also using the data to determine the overall health and welfare standards in these communities.

To see Misawa cavorting in his barn, go to http://www.zoo.org/giraffecam. Viewers are most likely to see Misawa and mom Olivia inside the barn in the morning and evening when they are nursing and resting.




Charlie Powell, WSU College of Veterinary Medicine public information officer, 509-335-7073, cpowell@vetmed.wsu.edu