Tieta, a Brazilian toucan, was rescued from a wildlife fair in Rio de Janeiro. Toucans can fetch as much as US$5,000 on the black market.
It’s not known exactly how Tieta lost part of her beak, but her rescuers theorise it could have been an attack by a bigger bird or mistreatment by the smugglers during trafficking.
The injury left Tieta struggling to eat and easy prey to predators.
Wildlife group Instituto Vida Livre created a beak for Tieta using plastic, a special polymer and a 3D printer.
The finished beak, weighing just 4 grams, was fitted during a 40 minute surgery.
Instituto Vida Livre Director Roched Seba told the BBC, “It took her three days to realise she had it again.”
“We were feeding her fruit and she was ignoring the new beak. But when we gave her live animals, like maggots and cockroaches, she ate normally immediately. I believe she had that kind of food when she was free, before losing the beak. So it activated a core memory.”
While Tieta’s new beak won’t allow her to be released into the wild, it will allow her to feed herself and any chicks she might have.