Latin America & Caribbean

Mutilated Costa Rican toucan 'to get prosthetic beak'

Veterinarian Carmen Soto examines a toucan which lost part of its beak on 4 February 2015 Image copyright AFP
Image caption The toucan lost the upper part of its beak in a brutal attack by a group of youths

A toucan in Costa Rica which lost the upper part of its beak after being attacked by youths looks set to be fitted with a prosthetic replacement.

Four Costa Rican companies that have volunteered their help say they possess the skills to create a prosthesis for the injured bird.

They say they will use 3D printing to create the first prosthesis of this kind in the region.

In the US, prosthetic beaks have been created for an eagle and a penguin.

Outrage

The male toucan, named Grecia after the area where it was found, was taken to an animal rescue centre in January.

Pictures of its mutilated beak caused outrage after they were circulated in Costa Rican newspapers and on social media.

A campaign to provide the bird with a prosthetic beak quickly raised thousands of dollars and a number of local companies offered their help.

Four of them, Elementos 3d, Ewa!corps, Publicidad Web and Grupo Sommerus, said on Tuesday that they were confident they could design a suitable prosthetic for Grecia and fit it.

Toucans use their beaks to eat and also to regulate their body temperature.

On the mend

Veterinarian Carmen Soto, who looks after Grecia at the Zoo Ave rescue centre, said the toucan was recovering well and had even started eating on its own.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Grecia's wounds have to heal a bit more before the toucan's beak can be scanned

"The quantity he manages to eat on his own is very small, so we have to help him," she said.

Designer Nelson Martinez said the priority was to create a prosthesis which would help Grecia eat.

He told newspaper La Nacion that he and his team had been studying toucan beaks to come up with a suitable design for Grecia.

He said they were working on a model that would have "a fixed part and a moveable part so it can be cleaned or replaced as the toucan is still growing".

Ms Soto said Grecia's wound was scarring well and that within the month it would be possible to scan its stump.

Fitting replacement

This will be key to ensure the prosthesis fits Grecia and will also influence how it is fitted.

"We couldn't use any type of adhesive with chemical components as it could compromise the structure of the beak," Mr Martinez said.

The team is studying if it could be fixed with screws instead.

Ms Soto warned that the prosthesis would have to be both lightweight and hard-wearing to ensure it would not come off or be damaged.

The team said it was planning to create models of Grecia's stump to be able to experiment with different fittings.

Karley Fu, of Grupo Sommerus, told La Nacion that another unknown was whether Grecia would accept the prosthesis.

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