A koala in eastern Australia has received the world’s first prosthetic foot especially designed for the marsupial.
Triumph, a male koala, was born without a right foot. He was rescued in 2017 in northern New South Wales by vet nurse Marley Christian, who found him next to his dying mother.
Christian became his primary carer at Lismore’s Friends of the Koala centre, whilst searching for the solution to his missing foot.
“The bone, it was protruding so it does give him a fair bit of discomfort so he needs some sort of padding there to alleviate that,” she said.
A U.S. company which specializes in animal prosthesis, rose to the challenge to create a foot for Triumph, but they were unsuccessful after several attempts.
But Christian never expected that the answer to Triumph’s woes was just down the road.
Local dental prosthetist, Jon Doulman, had heard of Triumph’s dilemma and volunteered to build him a working prosthetic foot. Christian said she was at first “sceptical,” but welcomed Doulman’s efforts.
According to Christian, Triumph, who was struggling to walk and climb, became a whole new koala once the pink prosthetic was attached in early 2021.
“Once I put the little boot on him and he did this little jump, then he was running around and climbing, I actually cried,” she said.
Doulman is currently in the process of improving his design for Triumph, but said that the koala “seems to be quite comfortable wearing it.”
“It was certainly different; it required a bit of lateral thinking in so far as coming up with the design… but it was a great feeling to be able to help him,” said Doulman.
Triumph, who is nearly five years old, will need to spend the rest of his life in captivity, most likely under Christian’s care.