An injured turtle has got back on his feet with the help of a unique customised Lego wheelchair.
The wild Eastern box turtle was found in a local park with multiple fractures to the bottom of his shell and taken to Maryland Zoo’s hospital for treatment.
Vets operated on the turtle to repair the fractures, using metal bone plates, sewing clasps and surgical wire to fix the pieces together.
But in order for the turtle to heal properly, the bottom of the shell needed to be kept off the ground.
Dr Ellen Bronson, senior director of animal health, conservation, and research at the Zoo, said: “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.”
Luckily, Garrett Fraess, a veterinary student on rotation at the zoo, knew someone that could help.
“They don’t make turtle-sized wheelchairs. So, we drew some sketches of a customised wheelchair and I sent them to a friend who is a Lego enthusiast,” he said.
The turtle received his very own multi-coloured Lego brick wheelchair just a few weeks after surgery.
The Lego frame sits on four wheels and is attached to the turtle’s shell with Plumber’s putty.
“He never even hesitated,” said Ms Fraess. “He took off and has been doing great. Turtles are really good at healing as long as the shell remains stable.”
The Lego frame allows the turtle to remain mobile during his recovery, and revert to natural behaviours, such as fully closing his shell if he feels threatened.
“Turtles heal much slower than mammals and birds, since their metabolism is slower So, this turtle will likely use his Lego wheelchair through the winter and into the spring until all of the fragments have fused together and the shell has completely healed,” said Dr Bronson.
The turtle was discovered as part of a monitoring project by the zoo, which has since 1996 recorded, tagged and released 132 wild turtles.
“This particular turtle was originally tagged in 2000, making him at least 18 years old,” said Dr Bronson. “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.”