Injured turtle at Maryland Zoo fitted with Lego wheelchair

BALTIMORE — Thanks to some Lego bricks and some creative thinking, an injured box turtle is healing properly after suffering an injury. The turtle is able to move around thanks to a customized wheelchair created out of the Lego bricks, the Maryland Zoo said on its website.

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The wild eastern box turtle was found by a Maryland Zoo employee in July and brought to the facility's hospital for treatment.

“He had multiple fractures on his plastron, the bottom part of his shell,” said Ellen Bronson, the Maryland Zoo’s senior director of animal health, conservation and research. “Because of the unique placement of the fractures, we faced a difficult challenge with maintaining the turtle’s mobility while allowing him to heal properly.”

After members of the veterinary staff performed surgery, it was important for the bottom of the turtle’s shell to avoid contact with the ground, according to Garrett Fraess, a veterinary student who is working at the zoo.

“It was important to keep the bottom of the shell off the ground so it could heal properly,” Fraess said. “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.”

The turtle is about the size of a grapefruit, and the small Lego frame surrounds the animal’s shell and sits on four Lego wheels. The application of plumber’s putty attaches the shell to the frame and keeps the turtle off the ground and frees up its legs for movement.

“He never even hesitated,” Fraess said. “He took off and has been doing great. Turtles are really good at healing as long as the shell remains stable.”