Lorraine Hollingworth isn’t sure how her cockatoo, Mr. Ben, lost his leg. Hollingsworth runs Charlie’s Angels Parrot Rescue in Oxfordshire, England, where Mr. Ben was dropped off by his previous owner, who “couldn’t cope with him anymore” (apparently he had developed a nasty biting habit). Mr. Ben had originally been “purchased from a pet shop with his foot hanging off, where he previous owner took him to a vet where he had his foot amputated” and the long-healed injury was making him very cranky. His leg stump had a sore on it where it rubbed against his perch, and to add insult to injury, Mr. Ben toppled off his perch every time he fell asleep.
Hollingworth contacted avian specialist Steve Smith of Wendover Heights Veterinary Centre, who in turn reached out to 3DPrintUK, a London-based 3D printing service that was eager to help.
“We’d never had a request like it and were really excited by the challenge,” said Jason Pereira, head of web & marketing for 3DPrintUK. “Steve and Lorraine sent us moulds of Mr Ben’s legs so we could get the measurements right and then we had to come up with a design for the claw. We spent a lot of time watching YouTube videos of cockatoos to help us with our research.”
Below is a video, created by Simon Demaine, detailing Mr. Ben’s journey:
The team designed and printed a plastic claw, which was attached to Mr. Ben’s stump. (A bird with a peg leg? Way to play into the pirate stereotypes, Mr. Ben.)The cockatoo seemed happy with his new leg for a few days, but then one morning Hollingworth came downstairs to find Mr. Ben with his foot in his mouth, quite literally. He had chewed off his new leg, which he promptly, and ungratefully, flung at Hollingworth.
“It has been a bit of trial and error,” admitted Hollingworth. “…He is now using a second prototype but we know he will eventually chew that one too – so we are working on another to see if we can make it harder to get off.”
“Hopefully we will get there in the end,” she added. “Mr Ben absolutely loved his new claw before he chewed it off. He was finally able to get a good night’s sleep and was a lot less cranky. He even stopped biting me.”
The second design, which is more robust, seems so far to be pleasing to Mr. Ben, who, according to Hollingworth, “loves to show off and dance.” He also likes to scream “Head scratch!” – one of the only English phrase he knows – and to shriek piercingly, as cockatoos are wont to do.
While Charlie’s Angels usually looks to rehome the birds they rescue, Mr. Ben will stay with the shelter, since he will need ongoing treatment. Cockatoos, if properly cared for, can live to be around 80 years old, so Mr. Ben, who is currently 8, should have a good long life ahead of him.
Charlie’s Angels is run solely on donations; if you’d like to sponsor Mr. Ben, you can do so here. The rescue also has an Amazon wishlist full of much-needed parrot supplies that can be purchased to send directly to the shelter, and keeps up to date with vet bills and rescue stories on their Facebook page as well as the thorough documentation of Mr. Ben’s story on their site. Below, you can watch a video of Mr. Ben as he adjusts to his new foot. Discuss how this technology is impacting the world of animals in the 3D Printed Claw for Mr. Ben forum over at 3DPB.com.
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