Injured Turtle Gets Personalised Mini-Wheelchair To Help His Recovery

It's not everyday you get a new set of wheels.

An injured wild eastern box turtle is on the mend after a special wheelchair was custom built for him using Lego, sewing clasps, surgical wire and mental bone plates.

The little creature was discovered by a Maryland Zoo employee in a Baltimore park and was brought to the zoo's hospital for treatment. Turns out the turtle's plastron -- the under side of his shell -- was fractured.

According to Maryland Zoo's Veterinary Extern Garret Fraess, this made it an interesting and challenging case to solve.

"... it was the opposite side of the turtle what was fractured, so normally it is their back that is fractured," Fraess said in a zoo video.

This was a special case because the underside of the shell was fractured, Image: Maryland Zoo.

Unfortunately, there isn't a set method to heal a damaged plastron, so the team at the zoo had to get to work.

They looked through all their available supplies and found some mental plates that they secured to the underside of the turtle to support the fracture. They also used hook and eye fixtures to keep the turtles shell in place.

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The next obstacle was keeping the turtle off the ground so it had the chance to heal.

"I had a friend who actually lives in Denmark who is a Lego enthusiast," Fraess said.

Sewing fixtures and metal plates were used to keep the shell in place.  Image: Maryland Zoo.

"I sent her some sketches about the turtle and what he would need to get maximum mobility from him and she came up with specific Lego pieces and design ideas."

Fraess' friend sent over items from her personal Lego collection for the Zoo to use on the turtle. After tweaking the designs, the Lego wheelchair was made. It's designed to ensure the turtle is off the ground so its injury can heal while allowing it decent mobility and movement.

The recovery process for the little turtle will take about a year, but with the help of the chair, his posture is already fully stabilised. The next step will see the wheelchair and the mental plates removed bit by bit, until the fracture is fully healed.

Contact Siobhan at skenna@networkten.com.au