Image Source: https://www.abc.net.au/
A koala with a missing foot is set to receive a prosthetic replacement in what is believed to be a world-first.
- Triumph, the koala, was born with a missing foot and would not have survived in the wild
- Prosthetic limb-makers in the US are working on a design for Triumph
- Triumph could be the world’s first koala to receive a prosthetic limb
Vet nurse Marley Christian rescued the koala, named Triumph, in 2017 from a property near Lismore in northern New South Wales.
At the time, he was a joey with a dying mother and Ms Christian said he would not have survived.
“He would’ve perished because you need to be able to efficiently climb,” Ms Christian said.
“He needs to be able to jump for leaf and to get away from predators.”
The joey was taken into care at Friends of the Koala in Lismore, where Ms Christian became his primary carer and named him Triumph.
Vets discovered Triumph’s missing foot was an inexplicable birth defect, and that it sometimes caused him pain.
Ms Christian began dressing Triumph’s stump with dolls’ socks and booties, and found that it relieved the sensitivity.
US answers callout for help
She then heard about scientists who specialised in making prosthetic limbs for animals, and put a callout on social media for anyone interested in helping Triumph.
A US-based company answered the call, and is in the process of designing a limb for Triumph.
The company uses 3D printing and casts of existing limbs to create prosthetic devices for animals including dogs, cows and ducks — but never a koala.
“Some vets think it can’t be done, but we’re still going to try.”
Innovation from afar
Ms Christian said coronavirus meant the limb-makers could not travel to Australia and had to rely on photos and video footage to come up with their design.
“It’s going to be a slow process, but we’re all excited,” she said.
“We want an extension that makes it the same length as his other foot, but also a bit of grip and a bit of padding.”
It was hoped the prosthetic limb would increase Triumph’s mobility and improve his overall quality of life.
“We just want him to be comfortable, because he’s going to spend his life in captivity,” Ms Christian said.