Hornbills are birds that somewhat resemble toucans, but are endowed with a more curved beak, resembling a horn. These animals do well in their natural environment. Unfortunately, in a clash with poachers they are almost completely defenseless. This was the case last spring in Thailand, where a dying hornbill arrived at the vets with a broken wing and most of its lower beak chipped off. Despite the efforts of medics, he would have faced imminent death had it not been for 3D printing.
There wasn't much time, because the bird was able to feed itself, which soon would have to cause it multiple organ damage. The female hornbill was kept alive by veterinarians, so she patiently waited for the prosthesis created by the 3D printer.
The first one lasted only 30 minutes. Subsequent ones, however, proved to fit better and better and were attached so tightly that the bird began to treat the last one as if it were part of its own body. Still, the veterinarians caring for it are considering using other, more durable materials.
An unusual application of a 3D printer saved the beak (and life!) of a hornbill from Kanchanaburi, Thailand. Named Coco by its keepers, the female received help from the Department of Wildlife Medicine at the acclaimed Kasetsart University. Unfortunately, one of its representatives in charge of the bird believes she will never be able to return to the wild.
We believe the wing has suffered permanent muscle or nerve damage. No fracture has been detected, but the bird is unable to fly," Supaphen Sripibun, head of the said department of Kasetsart University, told the press.
However, staying in captivity does not have to mean the worst for Coco. Thanks to the interest of the media and university authorities, she will probably manage to avoid the cramped cage. And the beak, which may break or peel off after some time (because that is how it was attached to the rest of the animal's body), will be easy to reconstruct on a suitable 3D printer. The most important thing is that Coco managed to avoid death at the hands of poachers (because it was them who most probably beat her up like that).
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