When caregivers at the Weltvogelpark Walsrode bird park in Germany returned to the aviary one morning, they were heartsick to discover that a secretary bird they called Söckchen, or “Little Sock,” had broken her leg inside her enclosure. They guessed that something must have scared her and made her jump, causing a severe break. Secretary birds (Sagittarius serpentarius) need their legs. Found in Africa’s savannas, they are large, mostly terrestrial birds; their strong, sturdy legs are vital not only for walking but for capturing snakes and other prey. Often, they hunt by stomping the ground to flush out animals, then run them down and strike with their beak or feet to stun or kill them. In the wild, the loss of a leg would be a death sentence. And in captivity it was a severe debilitation. With her leg severed, Söckchen became depressed, was not eating well, and rarely walked about. To help, the bird keepers came up with an idea: a prosthetic leg made using a 3D printer. Senior bird keeper German Alonso with Söckchen. Image courtesy of Lars Thalman. Three-dimensional printing has revolutionized the use of prosthetics to help injured animals. In the past, artificial devices fitted to wildlife were both extremely costly and time-consuming to produce. For instance, building a prosthetic tail flipper for a dolphin named Fuji in Japan in 2003 reportedly cost $100,000, and designing one for another dolphin, Winter, in Florida in 2007 required 18 months. By contrast, 3D printing can be less expensive…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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