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Grecia-toucan-300x200On the list of things that upset and outrage me, cruelty to animals is way up there. That’s why the story of Grecia the toucan made me so angry. Grecia was the victim of a brutal attack by a group of boys, who witnesses said were laughing and beating him with a stick. During the attack, the top part of his beak was broken off, leaving him unable to forage for food or defend himself from predators.

It makes me ill when I hear stories of cruelty like that, but Grecia’s story is a welcome reminder that for every cruel person in the world, there are thousands more whose compassion drives them to help animals like the injured toucan, who was named for the Costa Rican town in which he was found. When Grecia’s story appeared on social media, people responded with outrage – and donations. Before long, thousands of dollars had poured in to help give Grecia a new, 3D printed beak.

That was about a year ago, and now, after several challenges, Grecia has his new beak and can sing again. After his rescue, the toucan was taken to Rescate Animal ZooAve, a rescue organization that specializes in the rehabilitation of injured wildlife. Several 3D printing companies then stepped in. Technicians from Grupo SG scanned the remaining part of Grecia’s beak and turned the scan over to EwaCorp and Elementos 3D, who would work on creating a 3D model.

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Unfortunately, the designers ran into some difficulty. A toucan beak serves several functions; beyond feeding and vocalization, it also plays an important role in temperature regulation. Without having a full toucan beak to work with, the designers couldn’t quite get the function of the prosthetic beak to function like a real one. But another unfortunate toucan was able to help. Naturalists at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge discovered the body of a toucan that had been killed by predators, and they donated its beak to Grecia’s rescuers. (No word on whether the toucan had signed up to be an organ donor.)

greciaFinally, a successful design was created and printed. Once Grecia’s wound had finished scarring, the 3D printed prosthesis was attached just a few months ago, and he now sports a striking black and white beak that allows him to eat normally, sing, and otherwise function as a happy and healthy toucan. Interestingly, female toucans select mates based on the color of their beaks, so Grecia may have an interesting dating life ahead of him.

“The process was not easy. It was a very ambitious project, of which there were different national companies without profit, in order to provide to Grecia the best possible prostheses and quality of life.

“For several months was analysed, designed and studied the subjection of the same, where we learned a lot about the importance of the beak of Grecia. Its beak has various functions as preening, feed and draw the attention of the opposite gender; for this, it’s not just the part of his beak what he lost, but this also affected the psychological part of Greece, but this prosthetic allows you to have life Normal, within their abilities. A curious fact is that the singing of Grecia was affected with the loss of the beak and fortunately managed to retrieve his singing with the prosthesis.

“Unfortunately, because of legal problems and we were forced to interrupt the communication with the media, but this did not stop the process of the prosthetic and in the month of September was placed for the first time the prosthesis of Grecia,” the rescue group reported on Facebook (translated from Spanish).

His story may also save the lives of other animals in Costa Rica. After the attack, President Luis Guillermo Solís called for a bill (no pun intended) to be passed against animal cruelty. The legislation is still pending in the Legislative Assembly, but if it passes, it could go a long way towards deterring the kind of brutality that put Grecia in his situation in the first place.

Grecia isn’t the only toucan to benefit from 3D printing; you may remember the story of the Brazilian toucan who received a new beak after his was damaged when he crashed into a window. The types of animals that have been saved by 3D printing ranges from cats and dogs to goats, turtles, ducks, and more. Not long ago, the fate of most of these animals would have been euthanasia; because of 3D printing technology, they’ve all gone on to live normal, happy lives.  Discuss this story in the 3D Printed Toucan Beak forum on 3DPB.com.

[Photos: Rescate Animal ZooAve, via Facebook]

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