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Disabled tortoise gets a Lego 'wheelchair'

A little tortoise with a metabolic bone disease has had mobility returned thanks to a Lego rig glued to his shell.

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Blade is a tiny tortoise with a big problem: a metabolic bone disease resulted in the little guy being too weak to bear the weight of his own shell. His owner, Iris Pleste, noticed that the 127g Greek tortoise wasn't as active and healthy as her other pets -- so she took him to her local veterinarian, Bielefeld, Germany-based Dr Carsten Plischke.

Inspired by his son's Lego toys, Dr Plischke hit upon a novel idea: building a custom Lego "skate" for Blade so that he could use his legs for direction and momentum, while the Lego held his shell off the ground.

"We mounted Lego wheels on the tortoise Blade because he had a bone metabolism illness and his shell was too heavy and he had a loss of muscles," Dr Plischke said. "That's why he couldn't pick up himself and walk any more. The bones were like rubber and the musculature had clearly diminished."

The Lego modification consists of six pieces -- including four wheels with tyre treads -- glued to the underside of Blade's shell with special glue. These will allow him to gain strength in his legs by using them, so that eventually the training wheels can come off.

"For people there are walkers, rollators or prostheses but for animals there are no companies that produce something like that," Dr Plischke said. "The size variation of animals means they can't establish uniform products. So you have to come up with creative solutions; every animal needs its own treatment."

As for Blade, he seems to be taking to his newfound mobility like a duck to water. Look at him go in the video below.