When a koala was found next to its dying mother, becoming an orphan wasn’t its only misfortune. The rescuer also noticed the marsupial was missing a foot.
Luckily, of all people, a local dental prosthetist has been able to help this little one out.
The story of how the prosthetist managed to save the day is an amazing one.
The koala’s helper, Marley Christian from Friends of the Koala, was doing her best for Triumph the koala. She’d been using dolls’ socks to cover his stump—a birth defect. The socks seemed to help clear the discomfort Triumph appeared to feel whenever he tried to put weight on the limb, but Christian felt she couldn’t stop there.
According to ABC Australia, she began searching the internet for pet prosthetists that might be able to craft an artificial limb. But for a koala, there was nothing to be found.
“We were told it had not been done and it could not be done,” Ms Christian told ABC.
Christian did manage to find an American company that specialized in animal prosthetics, but after a year of trail and error, they could not come up with a design that stayed comfortably attached.
In passing, Christian mentioned Triumph’s predicament to a dental prosthetist in her local area of Lismore, New South Wales. He suggested that since he made casts of all kinds of different dentures, he could try his own hand.
“People do manufacture prosthetics for animals,” said dental prosthetist Jon Doulman to ABC. “I’ve seen them done for ducks, dogs, and cats… but no-one seemed to want to have a go with this little fella.”
After taking casts of Triumph’s stump, he essentially created a rubber boot, secured with Velcro, that immediately returned Triumph’s freedom of movement back.
“His entire demeanor has changed,” said Christian, adding that he crawls, runs, climbs, and plays, and that the boot has even corrected a dangerous curvature that was developing in his spine.
Despite his success with the koala, Doulman has decided to stick working with humans over getting involved with animal prosthetics, but he’s happy he was able to help Triumph, as the “little fella” was in trouble.