The Wild World of Animal Prostheses

With fake fins and plastic paws, doctors can rebuild injured animals — and also use what they learn to help humans

Gergely L. Boda / MTI / AP

A stork named Uzonka wearing a prosthesis on its broken bill walks in the backyard of the local animal hospital in Uzon in Kovasna county, north of Bucarest, in Romania on Friday, Sept. 15, 2006.

Motala had her foot blown off by a land mine; Fuji lost most of her tail to a mysterious disease; Stumpy crippled her leg in an unknown injury in the wild. Only a few years ago, a wounded elephant, dolphin and kangaroo like these would not have had much hope. Under the rough rules of the wild, they would have quickly died of predation, infection or starvation. Compassionate humans who intervened might have been able to make the animals more comfortable but never could have made them whole.

Now that's changing. With the help of some fancy new prosthetics, a cutting-edge...

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