A toucan from the forest of Grecia, Costa Rica was brought before veterinarians and, though the bird was found to be in good health otherwise, it was missing half its beak.
It was later revealed to workers at the animal rescue center in Alajuela that local officials witnessed youths laughing and beating the animal, and that during the attack the upper portion of its beak was broken off.
That is very bad news for the bird indeed as, without a beak, toucans are very much helpless when faced with predators, and since the female toucan chooses her mates based on the color of their beak.
Toucans have a colorful and large bill, which can in some species measure more than half the length of their bodies. Though large and stout looking, a toucan’s bill is very light and composed entirely of ‘bone struts’ filled with spongy, keratin tissue. Their beaks are a highly efficient thermo-regulation tool for the birds and they also use them to reach deep into trees to access food.
Toucans are primarily fruit-eaters, but they’re opportunistic as well and will prey on insects and small lizards.
The male toucan, named Grecia, lost a large portion of the upper part of his beak following the attack. The case generated widespread outrage and sympathy once Costa Ricans saw photos of the injured bird in newspapers and on social media sites, and a campaign to create a 3D printed prosthetic beak for Grecia quickly raised thousands.
The veterinarian who took over Grecia’s case, Carmen Soto, says that while the toucan is recovering and eating on his own, his wounds still need time to heal before the group can scan his beak to build a model.
Nelson Martinez, one of those taking on the project of creating a prosthesis for Grecia, says he and his team have been studying toucan beaks to come up a workable design and that the finished product would require “a fixed part and a moveable part so it can be cleaned or replaced as the toucan is still growing.”
“We couldn’t use any type of adhesive with chemical components as it could compromise the structure of the beak,” says Martinez.
Grecia’s story went viral throughout South America following the attack, and a social media campaign led by Luciano Lacayo quickly raised more than $7,000 in donations aimed at helping the injured toucan.
“Our team is overwhelmed with all the support. Not only have we reached our goal together, but we have done so in not even 48 hours,” Lucayo says, “We are in close contact with the parties in Costa Rica and the US to make the prosthesis a reality now. All further funds raised will go directly to the ZooAve Rescue Center to support them in the preservation of the beautiful wild birds and toucans there.”
Have you heard of any other cases where 3D printing has been used to help animals that were injured? Let us know in the Toucan 3D Printed Beak forum thread on 3DPB.com.