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Rare Crane Gets a Prosthetic Leg, Joins Hoard of Amazing Animal Prosthesis Users

Animal prosthetics are far behind our human blades, but they're making strides

Not cranes with prosthesis, but the same species. Image: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Human prosthetics are incredible these days. They’re so good that a man with two prosthetic legs qualified and competed in the able-bodies Olympics, and there was even speculation that his legs gave him an unfair advantage. But what about our animal friends? Animal prosthetics are far behind our human blades, but developers are making strides in improving them. Just a few days ago, an endangered crane got a new prosthetic leg. And he’s not the only one with bionic limbs either.

The sandhill crane recently outfitted with a new leg had an unfortunate run in with a golf ball that shattered his lower leg. The vets, when they finally caught the injured bird, decided to amputate the leg. The CBC reports that the current prosthetic is just temporary, while the stump heals.

The crane wouldn’t be the first to be outfitted with a prosthetic leg. There was this dolphin who was outfitted with a prosthetic tail after losing her own to a crab trap. The new tail has given her the ability to swim again, along with hoards of fans, and potentially a movie gig, says CBS:

Or there’s Beauty the bald eagle whose beak was shattered by a bullet. The accident actually happened three years before she could get a new beak designed and outfitted. That was in 2008. Today, Beauty’s beak has been replaced with a 3-D printed one, that can fit the exact specifics of her face.

Over in Cambodia, Chhouk the elephant was also crippled by hunters. His front leg was caught in a trap, mangling his foot and leaving him unable to walk. With a gigantic prosthetic boot, Chhouk is walking again.

And if one prosthetic isn’t enough for you, there’s always Meadow the calf, who has two prosthetic back legs.

None of these animals are going to give Oscar Pisorius a run for his money. But as we get better at understanding how animal parts work, we get better at replacing them.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Getting the Prosthetic Is Easy, Compared to Getting It To Do What You Want
An Artificial Ear Built By a 3D Printer and Living Cartilage Cells
Are These Two Toes the World’s First Prostheses?

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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