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Injured turtle rolls through recovery with a Lego wheelchair

Everything is clicking into place for a box turtle with Lego wheels.


This wild turtle is healing with an assist from Lego.

The Maryland Zoo

A wild turtle is now a Lego enthusiast after receiving a custom wheelchair made from the plastic bricks. 

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore took in an injured Eastern box turtle suffering from fractures on the underside of his shell in July. The zoo's hospital staff performed surgery on the turtle to stabilize the plastron with metal plates, clasps and surgical wire.

After the surgery, the next challenge was figuring out how to keep the bottom of the turtle's shell off the ground during his recovery.

"They don't make turtle-sized wheelchairs. So, we drew some sketches of a customized wheelchair and I sent them to a friend who is a Lego enthusiast," said Garrett Fraess, a fourth-year veterinary student doing a clinical rotation at the zoo. Fraess' friend then worked up a wheelchair design.

The chair consists of a frame that goes around the turtle's shell. Plumber's putty helps hold it in place while four Lego wheels give the turtle mobility. The zoo released a video showing how the turtle gets around in his Lego contraption.

The Maryland turtle isn't the first to get an assist from a Lego build. A tortoise received a Lego prosthetic leg in 2013 and another tortoise with a metabolic bone disease got Lego wheels to help him get around in 2014. 

Fraess expects it will take about a year for the zoo's rescue turtle to make a full recovery. 

"He took off and has been doing great," Fraess says. "Turtles are really good at healing as long as the shell remains stable." The zoo plans to release the turtle back into the wild once he's healed.