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Endangered Black-Breasted Leaf Turtle Gets 3-D Printed Face

Patches is part of the breeding program at Zoo Knoxville in Tennessee.

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A turtle at Zoo Knoxville in Knoxville, Tennessee whose face was seriously injured got a new one thanks to 3-D printing technology, and a pair of veterinarians who worked to fit her with a prosthetic face.

Posted by Zoo Knoxville on Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Patches, an endangered black-breasted leaf turtle (Geoemyda spengleri) who is part of the zoo’s breeding program,  somehow injured her face, which created a hole where her right nostril should be. The hole got infected and the zoo staff treated it with antibiotics and made a monthly routine of clearing the hole of the moss that got stuck in it.


Their had to be a more permanent solution, so  veterinarians Dr. Andrew Cushing and Dr. Kyle Snowdon suggested that Patches be outfitted with a 3-D printed face.

Dr. Snowdon went to work on creating a 3-D model of the turtle’s skull and then printed several resin-based 3-D masks based off her skull, to see what would fit.

"We had to look at different ways to get to it. It had to be the right size so the turtle could get its head in its shell. It could not cover the nostrils," Snowdon told the Knoxville News Sentinel.

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The first mask, created at with 3-D technology at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, was secured to the turtle’s head in June, but it didn’t stay secure long. Last month, after a micro CT scan determined that not only was Patches’ nostril gone, but the injury also destroyed her mouth’s hard palate, so a new mask was created to address her destroyed palate as well as her nostril. That mask, made of a clear resin material, was a success.

"She's doing great," Michael Ogle, the zoo's herpetology curator told the Knoxville Sentinel. "She looks a little odd, but she's still a good-looking young lady."