What is a bird without its beak? Usually it is a sad tragedy. The bird will not be able to eat, drink or defend itself effectively and is likely doomed to die. This was the case for a toucan that was brutally attacked by a group of youths in Costa Rica which left the bird lacking a substantial chunk of its beak. However, the world proved outraged by his story and the incident quickly garnered a lot of attention, causing people to graciously open their pockets. Now thanks to generous donations and the intervention of science, this bird will likely be skipping its death sentence with a new 3D printed beak.
Four different 3D printing companies have expressed interest to help the toucan, which will serve as the very first time a toucan has received such prosthesis. The animal was brought to veterinarians at an animal rescue center in Alajuela after it was beaten with a piece of wood in the town of Grecia. The toucan has recovered slightly, but it is only able to eat a very small amount of food on its own.
The prosthetic as it is being designed now is set to have a fixed part and a mobile part that can be cleaned and replaced as necessary, but will allow the toucan to eat on its own. The toucan still needs to undergo further healing before the scans for the beak can even be done, however.
In spite of these efforts, the future for this toucan remains uncertain as veterinarians are not sure that it will even accept the prosthetic beak. While 3D printed beaks have seen success in eagles, penguins and ducks, toucans use the colors in their beak as thermoregulation tools during mating season. Therefore, while it may be able to eat on its own, it will not be able to lead a fully functional life.