Prosthetic foot a triumph for three-legged koala

Triumph, a male koala born without a foot, with his pink prosthetic replacement. PHOTO: REUTERS
Triumph, a male koala born without a foot, with his pink prosthetic replacement. PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY • Triumph, a male koala born without a foot, has been climbing and running since he was fitted with a prosthetic one made by a neighbourhood dentist, an Australian wildlife carer said yesterday.

Veterinarian nurse Marley Christian had rescued the baby koala in northern New South Wales in 2017, after she found him next to his dying mother. He had only three feet and a protruding bone in place of the fourth.

"Once I put the little boot on him and he did this little jump, and then he started running around and climbing, I actually cried," she said, explaining how Triumph became a whole new koala once the prosthesis was attached.

"It's the best thing that ever happened. I would do absolutely anything for this boy."

Ms Christian had become Triumph's primary carer at the Friends of the Koala centre in Lismore, a town 136km south of Brisbane, while searching for a solution to his birth defect.

An American company specialising in animal prosthesis tried to create a foot for Triumph, but was unsuccessful after several attempts.

Eventually, Ms Christian found an answer closer to home.

Dental prosthetist Jon Doulman had heard of Triumph's dilemma and volunteered to take on the case. The resulting prosthetic is pink, with a velcro strap to help keep it on Triumph's leg and a tread on the bottom to help the marsupial grip while walking and climbing.

"It was certainly different," Dr Doulman said.

"It required a bit of lateral thinking insofar as coming up with the design... but it was a great feeling to be able to help him."

Dr Doulman is currently in the process of improving his design for Triumph, but said that the koala "seems to be quite comfortable wearing it".

Triumph, who is nearly five years old, will need to spend the rest of his life in captivity, most likely under Ms Christian's care.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2021, with the headline 'Prosthetic foot a triumph for three-legged koala'. Subscribe