Guess who's back? The Eastern Box turtle became an internet phenomenon with his custom Lego wheelchair.
The Maryland Zoo made headlines in July 2018 after stumbling upon an injured Eastern Box turtle and fashioning a Lego wheelchair for mobility. Now the turtle's woken up from a winter brumation (the reptile's answer to hibernation) and getting ready to leave the nest!
The turtle was found in Druid Hill Park with a fractured shell and brought to the zoo's hospital, where he received surgery supporting his shell with metal clasps and wire. Due to the precarious nature of the injuries, the zoo came up with a clever way to help him move during recovery—a wheelchair made of Lego bricks. Videos of him zooming around in his custom-made device tugged the internet's heartstrings and in 2019, he was finally able to move around without his wheelchair.
Since going dormant throughout winter, the turtle has been enjoying the warm weather and getting plenty of exercise with the help of his keepers. The zoo says once he fully recovers, they'll release him into the wild once and for all. We all know it's a big world out there, but we think this little guy can handle it! The zoo even uploaded a video to show his progress—just look at him go!
The Eastern Box turtle, native to Maryland, is listed as "vulnerable," according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with deforestation and wildlife trade contributing factors to their endangered status. For conservation purposes, the zoo has monitored box turtles in Druid Hill Park since the 1990s, where they've tagged and released 132 turtles. This turtle is about 20 years old, as he was tagged back in 2000 (the things he's seen!).
Despite the zoo's closure, exciting things have been happening lately with the residents. Additional news includes baby chimp Lola exploring the outdoor chimp habitat with her mother, a first for the 11-month-old!
What do you think of the turtle's recovery? Have you visited him at the zoo before? Tell us in the comments!