Every year boat strikes contribute to the anthropogenic mortality of several threatened marine species including sea turtles, manatees, dugongs, and whales. A boat strike will often result in severe injury and the animal’s death.
However, for the male loggerhead turtle “Akut-3” the story is different. The turtle, named after the Search & Rescue Association that found him, was taken to the DEKAMER Sea Turtle Research, Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre after he was found badly injured and floating off the shores of Turkey. Akut-3 had visibly had a close encounter with a boat propeller: he suffered from severe facial wounds and a fractured jaw. With over 60% of his jaw missing and unable to feed anymore, this turtle’s fate seemed sealed.
The only hope was total facial reconstruction. Working in collaboration with BTech Innovation A.Ş. the veterinary surgeons designed an implant for the turtle and had it 3D printed using medical-grade titanium. After a successful operation, Akup-3 is still recovering at the DEKAMER Centre.
This is the first time a sea turtle benefits from 3D printing technology. As of yet, the turtle does not show any signs of rejecting the implant but it will take time before it is confirmed that the operation was a complete success. Let’s hope that the turtle can be fully rehabilitated and released back into the wild!
Photos courtesy of BTech Innovation A.Ş..