Just over a year ago, we wrote about the sad story of Grecia the toucan, and in case you missed it, here’s a little refresher. The yellow-throated toucan lost nearly half of his beak when teenagers in Costa Rica attacked him with sticks. Thankfully, the injured bird was found and taken to the Zoo Ave Animal Rescue Centre, where he's been recuperating ever since.

After news of Grecia's attack gained widespread media attention, a number of 3D-printing companies joined forces to create a prosthetic beak for the wounded toucan.

The process wasn’t without its hurdles, but we’re happy to report that Grecia is now the proud owner of a new white-and-black beak that mimics the functions of the original, giving him the best possible chance at a relatively normal life.

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Grecia, before and after. Image: Zoo Ave Animal Rescue Centre

“The process was not easy. It was a very ambitious project, [involving] different national companies, without profit, in order to provide to Grecia the best possible prostheses and quality of life,” the Zoo Ave team says in a Facebook update.

The design and 3D printing alone took several months. After some initial trouble accurately modelling the missing part, the designers were able to fully replicate it using the beak of another toucan that had recently died, which was donated to the cause as a reference.

“We learned a lot about the importance of Grecia’s beak. It has various functions such as preening, feeding and drawing the attention of the opposite sex,” adds Zoo Ave [translated from Spanish].

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Image: Zoo Ave Animal Rescue Centre

And the new beak also came with benefits that Grecia's rescuers didn't expect. "We have seen a positive change in [his] singing. When he lost his beak, he also lost some of the singing. But now that he has the prosthesis, the singing is again more natural," says the centre's communications officer, Hugo Alonso.

Although the extent of the beak injury means Grecia can never be returned to the wild, the young bird is otherwise healthy and in good condition, so restoring his beak function was crucial to allow him to live life to the fullest in captivity.

"For a toucan, losing the beak is like being without arms, lipless and toothless," explains Dennis Janik, the founder of the rescue centre.

And Grecia is not the only animal that’s benefited from the rapid advances in 3D printing. Check out this turtle with a titanium 3D-printed jaw and this elephant with a printed prosthetic leg.

While thousands of dollars were raised through crowd-funding campaigns to help Grecia recover from his injuries, the Zoo Ave Animal Rescue Centre treats and cares for many other animals like him every day. You can make a difference in their lives by donating here.


Top header image: Don Faulkner, Flickr