PICS | The real macaw! Parrot that lost beak in two scuffles gets new 3D-printed one

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Max gets a new 3D beak.
Max gets a new 3D beak.
  • A blue and gold macaw has received a new fully functional 3D-printed prosthetic beak.
  • He lost his beak after he got into two separate scuffles with other macaws.
  • His surgery was conducted at the Robberg Veterinary Clinic in Plettenberg Bay.

The battle is not over for Max, a blue and gold macaw who lost his beak after getting into two scuffles with other macaws. He is getting a new three dimensional printed beak.

Max, approximately 20 years old, received a fully functional 3D-printed prosthetic beak after getting into two fights with other macaws, during which his beak was first damaged, then ripped off. The "fisticuffs" occurred in two separate incidents a few years ago.

His surgery was conducted recently at the Robberg Veterinary Clinic in Plettenberg Bay, with local vet Dr Brendan Tindall administering the anaesthesia, Professor Gerhard Steenkamp attaching the prosthesis, and former University of Pretoria professor and specialist prosthodontist Professor Cules van Heerden assisting.

Max gets a new 3D beak.

"Max is doing well, and no complications have been seen with the beak so far,” said Steenkamp, who was recently part of a team that performed the first CT scan on a live adult rhino at the Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital (OVAH).

READ | Why birds in the Eastern Cape have been dropping dead from the sky

The macaw’s owner, Trevor Glover, who established a bird sanctuary, said that within a day of surgery, Max was eating solid pieces of food. 

"This is quite a change from eating only soft food for years," he added.

bird beak
The prosthetic beak.

The ground-breaking surgery, believed to be the first of its kind in South Africa, was performed under the leadership of Steenkamp.

The surgery required collaboration with Bloemfontein’s Central University of Technology, and industry partners.

READ | Over 10 500 endangered seabirds killed by avian flu outbreak in Western Cape, authorities say

According to UP, the work spanned nearly two years, due to the lockdown arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. The result is that Max is now eating normally with the 3D-printed titanium beak and has returned home.

Glover said that Max was brought to the sanctuary in 2017 after his owner moved overseas.

"He was aggressive towards the rescued birds and, during hormone season at the end of 2017, he attacked a macaw that retaliated by biting his top beak and cracking the left side from top to bottom."

Max, a parrot.

Max was then placed in a transition aviary, along with another macaw which had an injured beak.

"But in the third week together, they got into a fight, with Max’s weakened beak being ripped off completely," said Glover.

The macaw's surgery lasted just over an hour.

"It is amazing what can be achieved with 3D printing,” he said. “I am happy to have been part of the team that has given Max a second chance in life and would like to thank our industry partners," said Steenkamp.

Max has returned home to a special aviary that Glover has built for him.

"Max has been given a new lease of life and has gone back to relatively normal behaviour – eating, flying and climbing as he did before the injury. My heartfelt thanks to all," his owner said.

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