Maryland Zoo Makes a Custom LEGO Wheelchair for Post-Surgery Wild Turtle

There have been lots of injured animal recovery stories that involved creating artificial wheeled supports for them so they can have a certain degree of mobility. Usually these are four-legged critters that lost a hind limb but could now walk and run, thanks to a custom LEGO wheelchair.

Staff at the Maryland Zoo have hit upon a LEGO solution to help in the therapy of a wild Eastern Box Turtle that was found in Druid Hill Park, Maryland, and taken to the zoo hospital. The said turtle had several breaks on his plastron – the bottom part of his shell – and following surgery he need a way to get around while keeping his healing plastron suspended. And a custom LEGO wheelchair specifically designed for the turtle is the best solution for that.

Maryland Zoo veterinary extern Garrett Fraess drew sketches of an animal wheelchair just the right size for the turtle, then sent them to a LEGO builder acquaintance for assembly. Weeks after the turtle’s operation, the brick-built wheelchair was fitted to him – plumber’s putty being used to secure the frame to his upper shell – and finally the box turtle has an upper harness elevating his recovering plastron, while keeping his legs free to move himself about.

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Dr. Ellen Bronson, Marylan Zoo’s senior director of animal health, conservation, and research, explains the complexities of helping the wounded Eastern box turtle, a common species in the Maryland wilderness. “Turtles heal much slower than mammals and birds, since their metabolism is slower,” she said “So, this turtle will likely use his custom LEGO wheelchair through the winter and into the spring until all of the fragments have fused together and the shell has completely healed.”

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