The Maryland Zoo turned to a creative solution to help a turtle in need.
Turtles definitely aren't known for being fast, but one turtle will be able to cruise around the Maryland Zoo with the help of a LEGO wheelchair.
The Eastern box turtle was found in July suffering from fractures on the underside of his shell. Thankfully, a Maryland Zoo employee found the turtle and knew exactly how to help. The turtle was taken to the zoo for treatment. The veterinary team performed surgery to secure the shell with metal plates, clasps, and surgical wire.
After the turtle successfully made it through surgery, the next concern was recovery. The turtle's shell needed to stay off the ground but there were no wheelchairs that could accommodate a small, grapefruit-sized turtle.
"He had multiple fractures on his plastron, the bottom part of his shell," Dr. Ellen Bronson, senior director of animal health, conservation, and research at the zoo said in a press release. "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.”
That's when the veterinary team got creative and enlisted the help of a LEGO enthusiast who specially designed a wheelchair just for the box turtle. The turtle took no time to adjust to his new wheels and immediately took off. The zoo reports that his prognosis is good as most turtles heal well as long as the shell remains stable.
Visitors do not have to rush over to the zoo as the turtle is expected to stay there for the next few months.
“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.
Although the turtle is likely enjoying his time rolling around the zoo, the ultimate goal is to release him back into the wild. Eastern box turtles are a subspecies of the common box turtle, which is listed as "vulnerable" as a result of the wildlife trade, habitat destruction, vehicle collisions, and pesticide poisonings. The Maryland Zoo has led an Eastern box turtle monitoring project where they tag and release turtles to understand the activities of the turtles in an effort to help conserve the species.
Courtesy of the Maryland Zoo
The injured turtle was previously tagged by the zoo back in 2000, making him at least 18 years old. Zoo personnel are happy he was brought back to them for treatment but are excited for him to return to the wild once he is fully healed.
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