Left in the wild, this badly injured little turtle may well not have survived.
But thanks to some quick — and outside the box — thinking folks at the Maryland Zoo, a wild Eastern box turtle is now on the road to recovery from a fractured shell with the help of a miniature LEGO wheelchair.
“They don’t make turtle-sized wheelchairs. So, we drew some sketches of a customized wheelchair and I sent them to a friend who is a LEGO enthusiast,” Garrett Fraess, a veterinary student at the Zoo, said in a statement.
Now, the turtle can “turn on a dime” and “scoot” like a normal turtle, Fraess explained, while his plastron, the bottom part of his shell, heals.
The turtle was found in Druid Hill Park back in July by a zoo employee.
It had likely been hit by a car and suffered multiple fractures.
“Because of the unique placement of the fractures, we faced a difficult challenge with maintaining the turtle’s mobility while allowing him to heal properly,” Ellen Bronson, senior director of animal health, conservation, and research at the zoo, explained.
The facility’s veterinary team performed surgery to stabilize the turtle’s severely fractured shell. They used metal bone plates, sewing clasps and surgical wire to hold the fragments together.
The LEGO device props up the turtle.
“It was important to keep the bottom of the shell off the ground so it could heal properly,” Fraess added.
The turtle will likely continue to use the device through winter.
Hopefully, the fragments will fuse together and the shell completely healed by next spring, the zoo said.
The zoo has long been monitoring turtles in the area since it is a species on the decline. And they really want this one to survive.
“This particular turtle was originally tagged in 2000, making him at least 18-years-old,” Dr. Bronson added. “We are very happy that he is recovering well from his injuries and we plan to return him to the wild once he is fully healed.”
Not your average LEGO® kit…
— Maryland Zoo (@marylandzoo) September 26, 2018