COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Blood donations are a critical life-saving tool for humans every day, and believe it or not, the same is true for animals — like the giraffes at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium — who on Wednesday offered up a life-saving boost.

“This plasma is incredibly important,” emphasizes Priya Bapodra, a Senior Veterinarian at the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium.

For Lance the giraffe, blood donations are nothing new. He’s been donating plasma since 2017.

“Lance and a couple of our other giraffe are trained to accept large-volume blood collections,” says Bapodra. “So, they stand for about 12-15 minutes while they have this much blood collected.”

And while Lance waits patiently for veterinarians to collect life-saving blood, zoo staff keeps him occupied with buckets full of his favorite treats.

“We’re discovering that giraffe calves can be fairly fragile if they don’t get that initial nursing from their mother, within about 12-24 hours of age,” explains Bapodra, who says calves may not get that nursing for a variety of reasons.

The collection is pain-free for Lance and causes little to no side effects.

But, his donations are giving newborn giraffes the proteins and antibodies they need to survive.

“He’s donated almost 40 liters to the National Giraffe Plasma Bank,” Bapodra details. “12 of those giraffe calves and one okapi calf have survived as a direct result of the plasma we’ve been able to collect here.”

But Lance isn’t the only one saving lives at the zoo on Wednesday.

New CEO Tom Schmid rolled up his sleeve to help save lives of his own.

“We always see a greater need during the summer, and that’s because school is out and we do a lot of our collections either at high schools, or we do a lot of our collections at OSU,” describes Heather Sever with the Versiti Blood Center of Ohio.

Versiti supplies critical blood to the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

They say the current blood shortage is a nationwide crisis.

“A lot of that is due to COVID. We get a lot of our donations at the workplace, and a lot of people are working remotely,” Sever admits.

And while the need isn’t quite as dire for Lance and his friends, zoo experts say their need is sporadic, and they need to keep their freezers full.

“It’s really a testament to that relationship that the keepers have with their animals,” Bapodra boasts. “It’s a very unique program and it’s very humbling to know that the Columbus Zoo, the animals here, the keepers here, the vet staff here have all contributed to save 13 lives.”

And if you would like to help save a life– or three — Versiti has blood drives and donation centers near you. To find donation times and locations, click this link HERE.