National Turtle Day 2017

World Turtle Day is about a lot more than looking at photos of the sometimes little and cute, sometimes large and dangerous animal. It is about raising awareness for combating illegal animal trafficking, and advocating for the humane treatment of turtles, tortoises and their environments and since we have a love for 3D printing we figured we would incorporate the two and bring a new aspect to World Turtle Day in the process.

3D Printed Metal Jaw

This loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), which is classified as an endangered species, has got his bite back with the help of a 3D-printed, medical-grade titanium beak. After a terrible accident where he was hit in the face with a propeller (from a ship) it became impossible for him to eat food but thanks to his rescuers who brought him to Pamukkale University in Turkey where a team headed by Professor Yakup Kaska used BTech Innovation 3D printed him a new jaw allowing him to chomp away with once more.

As a result of its injuries, the turtle -- named AKUT3 by the team at Pamukkale University's Sea Turtle Research, Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre -- was unable to eat on its own, leaving its chances of returning back to the wild looking very slim. The center contacted BTech Innovation, a Turkish company that makes customized medical prosthetics and implants – usually for humans. Eager to take on the challenge for a reptile in need, BTech used CT scans of Akut-3 to save the turtle from a lifetime in captivity using a 3D titanium jaw.

After two months of research and development, the company used CT scans and computer software to create a 3D model of the turtle's beak. This enabled them to design a prosthetic replacement, which was then 3D-printed in medical-grade titanium. The surgery, said to be the first of its kind ever performed, took two and a half hours to carry out by surgeons and veterinarians and soon after the surgery he was nursed back to health and is now living a full turtle life back where he belongs.

It’s Time To Shell-ebrate!

With the help of veterinarians, 3D designers, and local artists whom call themselves the “Animal Avengers,”, Freddy the tortoise was able to receive a beautifully hand-painted, 3D-printed hull after losing most of her shell in a devastating forest fire. Freddy was found after the fire that left him with burned forelegs and a damaged hull, Brazilian 3D designer Cicero Moraes said. Freddy not only survived the blaze but also made it through two rounds of pneumonia and not eating for 45 days.

“When we saw the animal in that state, we said ‘Wow! It looks like Freddy Krueger,’” Dr. Rodrigo Rabello, who found Fred and named her after the horror movie icon, told the Brazilian outlet, Fantastico.

“It took about 40 photos to build a model and reconstruct the shell. We took a healthy animal, took the same 40 photos, reconstructed that animal in 3D and put it into the computer,” graphic designer Cicero Moraes told Fantastico. Using a desktop 3D-printer, the 3D design was 3D printed out in four individual pieces from PLA (Polylactic acid), a corn-based plastic for 3D printers. “Just to make a single piece it took 50 hours of printing, which is much more than we imagined,” Paulo Miamoto, the dental surgeon who was part of the team, told Fantastico.

Once 3D printed, the four pieces were assembled, like a jigsaw puzzle, on top of Fred to create a full hull. Once complete, there was just one last issue. The shell was white and didn’t look authentic, so the team asked Brazilian artist Yuri Caldera to paint the replica to make it look like the shell Fred was born with. Now Freddy looks exactly as he did before the accident and is better than ever thanks to his new 3D printed painted shell.

Baby Sea Turtles

One of the most remarkable natural wonders in the world, sea turtles migrate over hundreds (sometimes thousands) of miles every year to nest ashore. But odds are often stacked against the amphibious sea creatures: between predators, pollution, and other environmental risks, only about 1 in 1000 baby turtles survive. Poaching poses an even greater threat. Poachers steal the eggs, sometimes while the turtle is laying them, and sell them to be eaten. In addition, the clutches are completely defenseless and already subject to attacks by other natural predators. All in all this means that every egg counts when helping to maintain threatened species’ populations.

Helen Pheasey is the driving force behind Turtle Tracks, an initiative that will use 3D printed replica turtle eggs equipped with GPS technology to track poaching in Central America. Helen says “The idea isn't to punish poachers but to test the technology as a means of future law enforcement, and hopefully also to deter would-be poachers from taking more eggs."

There's also a California conservation group named Paso Pacífico that has the same underlining aspect as Turtle Tracks and hopes to put a stop to the end of poaching using a 3D printed turtle egg. Paso Pacífico hopes that the information collected from the decoy eggs could lead to the removal of some of the big players in the illegal turtle egg trade. Even if not completely extinguished, the exponential nature of the impacts could be mitigated if a few of the big players were eliminated.

We hope that the two of these ideas can spark and lead more ideas and bring people out to venture forward to help protect the turtles and their rights. These are both hopeful aspects that if successful the cutting-edge technology could help focus limited law enforcement resources and help protect turtles and their rights.