A LEGO Wheel Speeds Mobility For a Disabled German Tortoise
Nov 27, 2013
What an idea! A prosthetic leg was crafted from a toy for a disabled tortoise! Here’s how LEGOs became a leg for a reptile who’s now on a roll!
Recently, in the town of Achern, Germany, a three-legged tortoise was found. It’s possible that the animal was abandoned by his owners. The missing leg was clearly due to an injury. Veterinarian Dr. Panagiotis Azmanis of Baden-based Bird Consulting International explained, “He was in pretty bad shape when they brought him to us. The lower part of his front leg was missing, and the upper part was very bad, with bone showing, and maggots in necrotic flesh.”
Now, however, the tortoise, who has been named Schildi, is hale and healthy.
After Dr. Azmanis and his team had taken care of the health problems that Schildi was facing, they moved on to the problem of his lack of mobility. Repairing the damage to Schildi’s body required amputating his leg at the shoulder, treating him with antibiotics, and administering painkillers while he healed. Azmanis explained, “Tortoises need to run free in gardens, so he needed a prosthetic.”
Dr. Azmanis came up with the idea to raid a toy box belonging to the practice manager’s daughter for a solution. Lightning struck when Azmanis decided on LEGOs to create a specialized prosthetic for Schildi. The vets used wheels and spacer blocks affixed together and then to Schildi with a specialized surgical glue—then they ‘stuck’ around to see what would happen.
Originally his rescuers provided a double-wheel structure that allowed Schildi to move about and was quite sturdy, but caused him difficulty when it came to the necessary maneuverability beyond simply going in a straight line. Azmanis explains, “First we fitted a double wheel but it was difficult for him to turn corners, so we replaced it with a single wheel and that is much better for him. After that we could add blocks to achieve the correct height.”
Now that his new prosthetic is affixed and functional, Schildi has been returned to the animal shelter that initially rescued him. Azmanis expects to see the tortoise occasionally for routine checkups and updates to his wheel. “If he gets a ‘flat tire,’” Azmanis said, “it will be a simple matter to replace the wheel. They move around a lot so I’d expect to see him for a new wheel about once a year.”
Having been given a new lease on life thanks to a few caring and quick-thinking doctors, Schildi is now zipping (as much as a tortoise can ‘zip’) happily around the animal shelter!