'Very emotional' moment as koala gets world-first prosthesis
A resident male koala called Triumph, under the care of Friends of the Koala in Lismore, has received the world's first koala prosthesis.
Born with a congenital defect, the animal has always had only three feet, until now.
These days, Triumph has been moving around like any other male koala of his age.
Instead of a foot on his right leg, he was born with a stump and a small foot pad on the end. Friends of the Koala said he moved around considerably well, but struggled to climb like a typical koala, as putting pressure on his stump was painful.
Foster carer and IFAW Sponsored Vet Nurse, Marley Christian, has been caring for Triumph.
"Since coming into care as a 10-month-old joey almost four years ago, I had always hoped a prosthesis could be developed to enhance his quality of life," she said.
Triumph's case presented a lot of challenges to the wildlife carer's organisation.
Unlike other mammals that use two legs from the same side when moving - such as cats and dogs -, koalas climb with opposite hands and feet providing them greater stability.
This specific gait pattern resulted in many professionals in the field claiming the prosthetic could not be done.
(Video and photos by Brad Mustow)
After a call-out on social media, a follower from America kindly donated the cost of a prosthesis and contacted internationally renowned pet prosthetic specialists Bionic Pets who were willing to take on the case.
An initial boot was made for Triumph however, due to COVID-19, their New York-based technicians could not visit to assess him and take a cast.
Ms Christian said that after many months of trying to do this remotely, it became clear that a hands-on approach would be required.
"Although we had a setback with Bionic Pets, I was determined to find a local supplier who could help Triumph," she said.
Although koalas are not his usual patients, local dental prosthetist Jon Doulman offered to help.
After taking numerous measurements and casts, Mr Doulman created a small rubber prosthetic boot.
For months, Triumph wore a sock on his stump which not only protected his foot pad but prepared him for an eventual prosthesis.
Triumph allowed the boot to be attached and immediately started using his right foot.
He has since been seen using it to help him climb and groom himself as well.
"It was a very emotional moment for us. Years of watching Triumph struggle and within minutes, his struggle was gone. It is a dream come true, the best possible outcome", Ms Christian said.