site.btaInnovative Project by Bulgarian Vets Makes Possible Rehabilitation of Previously Irreparable Bird Injuries
A white stork with a prosthetic leg has been surviving in the wild for a month now. It is the first bird in Bulgaria with what is believed to be an irreparable injury that has been successfully returned to its natural environment. The stork was part of an experimental programme by Bulgarian vets which aims to give feathery patients with fractured legs a chance for full rehabilitation, it transpires from a press release by the Green Balkans environmental organization.
In 2016, Green Balkans’ Wildlife Rehabilitation and Breeding Centre in Stara Zagora (South Central Bulgaria) and Trakia University joined efforts to find a solution for birds that are doomed to life in captivity due to injuries to their legs and beaks. Since then, a team of Bulgarian veterinarians at Green Balkans has spearheaded a pioneering project that uses 3D printing to advance the birds’ rehabilitation.
Dr Rusko Petrov, Dr Stefka Dimitrova, and Prof Galina Simeonova have tested various methods, starting from surgical prostheses made of epoxy resin. Since 2021, the vet team together with the 3D AMS printing company have been perfecting 3D-printed leg protheses, trying them on white storks as the most common patients at Green Balkans’ Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. Each prothesis is tailored to the patient to ensure the perfect fit.
The survival in the wild of the white stork released in September shows that the technique is successfully applicable. The next step in the project is to apply the technique to beak attachments and to modify it for various species, such as endangered birds of prey like the griffon, black, Egyptian, and bearded vultures.