Normally, losing a leg is a death sentence for a tortoise. Thanks to the help of one inventive vet however, this unlucky reptile now spends his days rolling around in style.
Earlier this year, a 12-year-old African spur-thighed tortoise named “Gamera” suffered “severe thermal injury and tissue damage” to its left front leg. Its owner consulted a vet who advised that the animal should be taken to see Dr. Nickol Finch, head of Exotic Animal Services at Washington State University.
Finch’s team found that the injury was life-threatening, and, unable to care for the animal, Gamera’s owner relinquished care of the tortoise to Dr. Finch. In an effort to save the creature’s life, its leg was amputated at the shoulder, and the vet surgically installed a feeding tube as a precaution, in case Gamera was unable to feed itself after surgery.
Grim as it may seem, the above was simply a preamble for the most interesting part of this story. WSU Today reports:
To help the animal ambulate after the surgery, a small swiveling ball-type caster was attached to its shell with an epoxy adhesive. The animal took to his new prosthetic quickly with little encouragement and ambulates well on most surfaces.
WSU Today makes the tale sound a bit clinical, when the reality is hilariously awesome, hilariously adorable and hilariously clever. Using epoxy and custom-built mountings, Dr. Finch’s team attached a modified desk chair wheel directly to Gamera’s shell. As you can see in the embedded clips, it seems to work wonderfully as a replacement leg.
In fact, the makeshift prosthetic works so well that Gamera has barely needed to use his surgical feeding tube at all. During his convalescence Gamera has packed on three pounds of body weight. Given that the injury had caused the animal to drop to 20 pounds total prior to the surgery, that’s a phenomenal increase.
The creation of this prosthetic is truly inventive, and a testament to Dr. Finch’s ingenuity as well as her dedication to helping improve the lives of her patients. Let’s just hope this wheel doesn’t hinder Gamera’s ability to fight Barugon.