When animals get injured, it can compromise their mobility the same way it does for humans. Unlike people, however, our four-legged friends often don’t have access to assistance like crutches or wheelchairs to help them get around. But thanks to an innovative veterinarian staff, one injured turtle at the Maryland Zoo got a customized wheelchair so he can once again be on the move.
The best part? The tiny wheelchair is made out of LEGO bricks.
The wild Eastern box turtle was not originally living at the zoo, but was brought to the facility’s hospital for treatment after being found by a zoo employee. The zoo has monitored these wild turtles at a nearby urban park since 1996, and staff records, tags and releases the turtles for research purposes. Veterinarians estimate that this injured turtle is at least 18 years old because he was tagged back in 2000.
First, the turtle underwent surgery to stabilize his fractured shell with metal bone plates, sewing clasps and surgical wire. Garrett Fraess, veterinary extern at the zoo, then sent sketches of a possible turtle-sized wheelchair to a friend who is a “LEGO enthusiast,” he said. Once the LEGO wheelchair was ready to go, so was the turtle.
“He never even hesitated,” Fraess said in a statement. “He took off and has been doing great. Turtles are really good at healing as long as the shell remains stable.”
His custom wheelchair frame surrounds his shell and sits on four LEGO wheels. It is attached to his shell by plumbers’ putty. Turtles are not known for their speed, and that goes for their rate of healing as well. The wheelchair will likely serve him well for some time until he is ready to move without it.
Check him out in action:
“Turtles heal much slower than mammals and birds, since their metabolism is slower,” Dr. Ellen Bronson, senior director of animal health, conservation and research at the zoo, explained. “So, this turtle will likely use his LEGO wheelchair through the winter and into the spring until all of the fragments have fused together and the shell has completely healed.”
We’re wishing him a speedy recovery!