We’ve been hearing lots about how 3d printing and its many uses, including creating prosthetic devices like the fingers a father made for his son. Technical knowhow of a more old-fashioned sort can come in just as handy, though: a 7-year-old Yorkshire goose, Tilly, recently got a new lower beak made from the the same materials as dental acrylic.
Tilly’s new lower beak was actually bolted in place (the bolts are quite visible) as it’s a part of his anatomy that gets quite a bit of use and needs to be securely attached.
As his owner Frances Hall-Coetzer relates, Tilly has been without most of his lower beak since he was six months old after losing it in an unfortunate encounter with a barbed wire fence. Showing quite a bit of resilience, he’s been using his tongue ever since to help him eat, especially as what was left of his lower beak has continued to shrink.
Over years of use, Tilley’s tongue started to become too “hard and fibrous” so he was in need of support. Then, over the last month, “he got ‘drop-tongue,’” Hall-Coetzer says, and could have starved due to being unable to feed anymore.
Fortunately, veterinarian Andy MacGregor and his dentist friend Chris Siddons came to the rescue. For no fee, they performed extensive surgery on Tilly. The goose was placed under general anesthesia and silicone impressions were made of his upper and missing lower mandibles. Then, a new lower beak made of dental acrylic was bolted into place.
After the procedure, MacGregor comments that Tilley has been “taking grain in and behaving quite normally.”
Of what was probably the first-ever lower-beak replacement surgery done on a goose, the veterinarian had this to say:
“It’s like trying to do a gum shield for a rugby player. [Tilly's] tongue is like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s thigh – it’s absolutely massive because that’s had to do all the work.”
Hall-Coetzer adds that if it hadn’t been for McGregor’s and Siddons’ handiwork, Tilly would not have survived.
The Yorkshire goose joins an ever-growing number of animals who, thanks to human effort and ingenuity, have had their lives extended with the help of cleverly crafted prosthetic devices, from a a 3d-printed silicon left foot for a duckling, wheels for a turtle and pig and a tail for a dolphin. As researchers have noted, creating these new devices has given them new insights into creating prostheses for humans, including injured veterans.
Hall-Coetzer emphasizes that there was no choice but to figure out a way to help Tilly get a new lower beak. As she says of the goose, “he means so much, he’s so special. He’s more like a dog; he follows me around everywhere.”
Photo from Thinkstock