A macaw got a new 3D-printed titanium prosthetic beak after the original was torn off in a fight with another bird.
A team of South African veterinary specialists fitted Max, a rescue believed to be about 20 years old, with his new beak. With only a lower beak left, Max was unable to eat solid foods. The surgery lasted just over an hour and within a day, Max was eating again.
Trevor Glover, the owner of the Hyacinth Haven Bird Sanctuary in the seaside town of Plettenberg Bay, in South Africa, said: “When Max’s top beak got broken off, that piece was kept and given to Dr. Brendan Tindall, who made a mold of it to keep if needed.
“When the remaining part of the beak left on Max had settled completely, an impression of the stump was taken. These two items were sent to Bunnycorp to scan into their CAD program. This then formed the basis of discussion and from that, the initial trial beaks were designed.
“Over the two-year period until the final prosthetic was printed in titanium, there were several other impressions taken to check the stability of the remaining stump. This was aided by the CAT scan, done to confirm there was enough solid material available to which the prosthetic could be attached. The waiting period also confirmed the stump showed zero growth.”
Using the two 3D scans, combined with the CT scan, the company reconstructed the beak digitally.
Glover said the importance of the operation was twofold.
First, that “we have the expertise here to perform such an operation like this successfully, but also the technical expertise from several disciplines that was needed was available — even though it had never been performed in South Africa before.”
His research found the breakthrough procedure was only done twice before, in Brazil.
“Importantly, this laid the groundwork and started a knowledge base which would allow this procedure to be utilized for other birds,” he said.
Max is currently being kept separate in a hospital aviary on the premises, according to Glover. The pugnacious macaw has a bad habit of starting fights with other birds. Glover is concerned that if Max is allowed to mingle with other birds too soon, they could rip his prosthetic off if he provokes another fight. “Their bite is extremely powerful,” he said.
Macaws are highly intelligent birds. They mate for life and can live up to 60 years. However, their vibrant color makes them a popular species in the illegal pet trade.
This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.