Parrot Prosthetics

3-D Printers Help Rehabilitate Animals

Pete, a 34-year-old Amazon parrot, received a boot-like prosthesis made by a 3-D printer from a customized mold after his leg was ripped off by a fox. A day later, he was not only already starting to accept it, but also realized he could place his weight on it. “That in itself is revolutionary for a bird,” says Veterinarian LaToya Latney, service head and attending clinician of the Exotic Companion Animal Medicine and Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine’s Ryan Hospital, known as Penn Vet. “He gets it.”

In another case of an interspecies application of new medical technology, Lola, a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, the most endangered species of marine turtle, suffered injuries so extensive that a flipper was amputated. Losing a limb can make it difficult for a turtle to avoid predators or chase after prey. At the Key West Aquarium, in Florida, Iok Wong, Samantha Varela and Vivian Liang, three recent engineering graduates from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, in Massachusetts, used their specialized skills and 3-D printing to create an effective, low-cost prosthetic turtle flipper.