When park employees at Walsrode, Germany’s Weltvogelpark bird park noticed an injured Secretary bird, they did everything they could to get it back on its feet again. Named Söckchen, the bird was approximately two years of age.
In particular, the bird had a broken left leg that needed to be dealt with. Unfortunately, because there was no effective way to mend the broken leg and for it to heal properly so the bird could walk on it again, experts were forced to amputate the leg to save the creature’s life.
Image Credit: Alliance/DPA/P. Schulze
"Söckchen used to be part of show group, but one day we found her in her aviary that saw that she had broken her left leg," Janina Buse, an employee at the Walsrode sanctuary, explained in a statement. "Because the nerves had been so badly damaged, we were unfortunately forced to amputate the leg."
The next step was to help the bird to walk again, and to do that, they needed another leg. Since you typically don’t find more Secretary birds just walking around saying, “here, take my leg instead,” the team turned to the 3D printing industry for help, and it was there that they found the solution to their problem.
More importantly, they turned to e-Nable, a company that normally makes 3D-printed prosthetics for children. There, two different prototypes were made for Söckchen, but the first was too heavy to be used. The second was much lighter and had no talons, but the bird is reportedly getting around great with it.
With a second chance to walk again, Söckchen is far better off now than she was with having a broken left leg.
Notably, this isn’t the first time the 3D printing industry has offered help to the animal world. It gave this injured sea turtle a way to eat again and it even gave this toucan a new beak. It’s expected that 3D printing will continue to have uses throughout the animal care field going forward.