Tortoise 3D carapace

Fancy a shell-fie? Tortoise receives first ever custom-made 3D prosthetic covering to replace its armour after it was burnt off in a bush fire

 22 May 2016

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Brasil — A tortoise has been given a new lease of life thanks to a custom-made prosthetic shell after he was left close to death in a bush fire.

The reptile, named Freddy, was found severely injured by vets in Brazil with his shell completely destroyed due to the blaze.

His prospects were looking bleak, but thankfully a group of superhero surgeons came to his aid.

‘Then I reconstructed a 3D computer imaging model of the complete shell using the tortoise’s exact measurements.’

The 3D design was sent to dental surgeon Dr Paulo Miamoto who used a desk-top 3D printer to build an authentic four-piece shell that slotted together like a jigsaw puzzle.

Following a successful operation, Freddy returned to full mobility sporting a beautifully hand-painted hull that blends into its natural habitat.

The team of six specialists – four vets, a dental surgeon and a 3D designer – use the pioneering 3D technology to prolong the lives of seriously wounded pets and exotic wild animals.

Consisting of Dr Matheus Rabello, Dr Paulo Miamoto, Dr Roberto Fecchio, Cicero Moraes, Dr Sergio Camargo and Dr Rodrigo Rabello the experts volunteer their services and time.

Based in Sao Paulo, the team have reconstructed artificial beaks for three toucans, a parrot, and a goose; designed the first ever titanium prosthetic pecker for a Macaw and built a brand new plastic-based replacement hull for a traumatised tortoise.

Dr Fecchio said: ‘We first came together as friends because of our common love of science and our love for animals.

‘We soon realised we could do some extraordinary work using cutting-edge technology to push back the boundaries of life-saving care for mutilated animals by giving them customised prostheses.’

Last July the group worked on the first Toucan to receive a 3D prosthetic top nozzle after its upper beak had been broken in an accident.

Dr Fecchio said: ‘We used a technique known as photogrammetry which allows us to plan the prosthesis using exact measurements and calculations of the size of the replacement.

‘By the time we came to doing our second Toucan called Bicolino, a month later, which was born with a malformed upper beak, we had learned so much we were able to mould and construct an even better prosthesis that fitted perfectly.’

Whereas Toucans use their beaks mainly for feeding, the research scientists were concerned about repairing a parrot’s pecker.

Dr Matheus Rabello, who worked on the parrot, said: ‘We were worried the renewable plastic used to make the prosthetics would not withstand the demands of a parrot’s beak, which is used to crack nuts and to climb.’

However, the prosthesis proved to be a super-strong substitute.

Another touchstone triumph with the first prosthetic beak built for a goose. The poor gander named Vitoria, had lost most of its top and bottom choppers and would have died without urgent corrective surgery.

They also produced the world’s first titanium beak for Gigi, an abandoned Macaw.

The breakthrough bionic 3D metal beak was attached to the Macaw’s severely damaged beak with bone cement and secured with eight colourful orthopaedic screws.

Damage: Freddy was said to be close to death when he was discovered by vets, with what was left of his severely injured shell hacked away during surgery (pictured)

Hull: Using 3D computer imagery the team created a new shell which then was slotted together like a jigsaw


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