Thanks to modern technology, a seriously injured bald eagle gets a second chance at life.
Back in 2005, an adult female bald eagle—now called Beauty—was found emaciated and close to death in an Alaskan landfill. She had been shot in the face by a poacher and left to die; the upper mandible of her beak was destroyed, making it next to impossible for her to eat, drink, or even clean her feathers.
Beauty was transferred to Birds of Prey Northwest, a non-profit organization in Idaho, where she was cared for by a team of volunteers, including raptor biologist, Janie Fink. Beauty was tube-fed and then eventually moved on to eating solids which were fed to her with forceps. Those who cared for the bald eagle hoped that her beak would grow back but, sadly, it was not meant to be: Beauty’s beak was too severely damaged and the expert opinion was that Beauty could not be rehabilitated and should be euthanized. Janie Fink would not accept this as Beauty’s fate and continued to care for the bald eagle while sharing her story with the public.
After learning of the bald eagle’s heart-breaking story during one of Janie’s presentations, Nate Calvin, a mechanical engineer and founder of Kinetic Engineering Group, approached Janie with the offer to try to help the bird. By using 3D technology, Nate was able to create a prosthetic beak which enables Beauty to drink water, eat and groom herself – something she was unable to do on her own for years. Check out these two videos:
It was 2008 when Beauty was given her new beak. The Guardian recently contacted the Birds of Prey Northwest asking for an update on Beauty, to which Janie Fink replied:
Beauty continues to thrive under our care without her upper beak. The new growth pushed out the hardware which anchored the prosthetic beak. Recently the small amount of new growth has allowed Beauty to do something she has not been able to do since her injury-eat independently. We have constructed a special feeding platform for her and she now feeds herself!
We are looking to the future as we measure her minute growth and construct a new plan of attachment. Construction of the beak is the easy part, it is the attachment that is the challenge.
Recently, her 2008 procedure videoed by a Seattle news team, was made available on Vimeo and we have had lots of inquiries. Some have suggested that Beauty has a much greater educational impact WITHOUT her beak. When the prosthetic was in place, her story is lost at first glance. Time will tell whether she goes through life with or without a beak.
In the meantime, she will remain in north Idaho under my care where she is cherished and well cared for.
It’s remarkable how much of an impact 3D-printing technology has had on people’s lives and there’s no doubt it will continue to do so. Here are some other stories where the technology is being used: