I find the argument on whether one should or shouldn’t help an animal with a prosthetic device (or prosthesis) very interesting.
Many people think we should do what we can if we want to do it.
Others think that spending that kind of money on any one animal takes away from other animals who may benefit from that same money. Or they think that the animal is suffering, so just put it down already.
For me, I think donating, helping, volunteering, planning aid or whatever – are personal decisions. To each his own. Do what resonates with you.
But I gotta tell you… no matter what the nay sayers purport… no one can debate the power of these ‘humans helping animal’ stories. The nay sayers may think that the animal is better off dead, or that it would be better to help more than just the one – but to me, by telling these incredible stories, they are helping more than just the one…! These animals are ambassadors.
Heck, an entire movie was made about Winter the dolphin who lost her tail in a fishing net.
We’ve all read the story about the young elephant who was given a new foot…
These kinds of stories circulate the world and have the ‘feel good attaboys slap each other on the backs and wipe away the tears’ kind of effect on us humans.
So I ask you… is that a bad thing?
Are all the humans who swoon over these stories secretly wishing that this miracle device or renewed limb had not been created so that other, less damaged animals could be helped.
Maybe… but I doubt it.
Most of us are high-fiving each other and feeling proud of the human do-gooders. Most of us are enthralled with the stories of how the family dentist ended up creating a beak for Beauty the Bald Eagle. Or we sit amazed as we watch Midnight run for the first time in his life via a prosthetic created by a company devoted to human athletes. I know we all cheered in the Winter movie when the dolphin learned to swim again… I went to the movie and I cheered, too!
Most of us humans love to help. We band together and jump in when the chips are down. We love to help the needy. We love to help the helpless.
And sometimes, the helpless are animals.
So, I’m guessing that the stories below will create a bit of that awe.
And that awe, that pride – that wonder of human engineering created solely for a helpless being – is what keeps the humans humane.
THE FIRST STORY: BEAUTY AND THE BEAK
This video was emailed to me today. (Thank you.)
The story linked here from the Raptor Center Blog, tells of an 8 year old Bald Eagle who was found wandering in a garbage dump, emaciated and dying. She couldn’t eat, drink properly or preen herself because a poacher had shot off her upper beak.
She was brought to a wildlife rehab facility where she was cared for and brought back to heath… however, she needed a beak to take care of herself. She needed a beak to maintain her feathers, drink and eat. This is where the family dentist came in.
Watch this video to see the process and the results!
MORE… (from the WebEcoist)
Whether getting attacked by a larger predator, being harmed by man, suffering from disease or simply being injured on accident, there are many different ways in which animals can get hurt in the wild. While many animals are resilient following injury, the odds of survival certainly improve when researchers are able to help out. Take animal prosthetics and artificial limbs as an example. From artificial turtle flippers to new beaks for bald eagles to replacement dolphin tails, the development of animal prosthetics has come a long way in recent years, with the noble goals of determining the best ways to save injured animals and allowing them to regain as much functionality as possible.
Recently in Japan, a 20-year-old loggerhead turtle named Yu Chan was discovered entangled in fishing nets, with several of her limbs apparently bitten off by a shark. Rather than releasing the turtle into the wild, researchers have been working to attach artificial flippers made of soft plastic (polypropylene) and stainless steel supports to replace the missing limbs. At this point, figuring out how to construct durable turtle flippers has been the biggest obstacle, with one of the replacements falling off the turtle several times. Still, the ultimate goal is to move from these trials in the next couple of years with a proven, artificial flipper design that can be attached via surgery on Yu Chan and other injured turtles in the future.
Back in 2005, a bottlenose dolphin named Winter became entangled in a crab-trap line near Cape Canaveral, ultimately causing her to lose her tail and several vertebrae. While rehabilitating in Clearwater, Florida, Winter was fitted with an artificial tail that attaches to her body via a gel sleeve. The dolphin quickly learned how to swim and splash around with the prosthesis at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where she has become a popular attraction. Just how popular? Winter the Dolphin even has her own Nintendo DS game, which includes various interactive features built around her amazing story.
In 2005, the chances of surviving didn’t look good for a bald eagle named Beauty, which was found wandering a landfill in Alaska with no means to feed itself. Sadly, the bald eagle had its beak shot off by a hunter. When recovered, Beauty struggled to rehabilitate, having to be force-fed food. Fortunately for the bald eagle, she was able to benefit from some compassion as opposed to the cruelty that injured her in the first place. A titanium, lifelike beak was designed for and fitted on the eagle, which was able to regain its ability to drink and feed itself. While the beak is not strong enough for the bald eagle to return to the wild and tear at prey, it at least allows Beauty to function better and regain her natural appearance while now living a safe life free of hunters.
A couple of years ago in Cambodia, a young, male elephant named Chhouk was found with a severely infected, left front foot. Apparently, the foot was shot by a poacher. With not only his foot but his life in jeopardy, the elephant was rushed to a wildlife rescue center some 26 hours away, where a prosthesis was eventually attached to replace 12 centimeters of its injured limb. While the elephant prosthesis was originally too tight for Chhouk, it was quickly modified, now allowing the healthy elephant to carry out normal activities. It is believed that Chhouk is just the second elephant to receive an artificial limb.
Other animals have benefited greatly from prosthetic devices, including some technologies that even fuse to original bone. In March of this year, a male German shepherd received an osseointegrated prosthetic (or fused limb) for a defective, hind leg during a revolutionary surgery performed at North Carolina State University. In 2008, a goat in Washington State had a similar limb attached to a front leg that was caught and broken in a rope. Related to but not specifically the leg, a young horse received a fake, glass eye after its mother accidentally kicked it in the face shortly after birth. Currently, researchers are conducting further research in the development of future animal prosthetics, including studying how cheetah legs are able to go from 0 to 65 mph in seconds with the goal of dealing better with lameness in animals, improving tracks for greyhounds and other animals that run often, and of course developing more effective artificial limbs.
MORAL OF THE STORY
I don’t know the moral of the story other than to say that if someone feels like doing a good thing in an ethical way, let the humans spread the love.
Love, in whatever form suits your fancy, is all we have to give that needs no translation.
HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth… if you like this, please pass it around!
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