'Healing Is Happening': Gorilla Treated with World's First 3D-Printed Titanium Cast Is Doing Well at Cincinnati Zoo

A young gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo is on the mend after having her arm fitted with the world's first 3D-printed titanium cast

Published Time: 19.05.2024 - 13:31:05 Modified Time: 19.05.2024 - 13:31:05

A young gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo is on the mend after having her arm fitted with the world's first 3D-printed titanium cast.

Gladys, an 11-year-old female who broke her arm last month after falling during "a scuffle" with two of her siblings, is doing well, the Ohio zoo updated the public in a press release on May 16.

After undergoing surgery to repair the distal humerus fracture in her arm, Gladys had a temporary cast applied, which was later replaced with a custom titanium cast designed by Colibrium Additive, a GE Aerospace company, on April 19.

This week, the zoo's veterinary team examined Gladys and determined that the cast is "doing what they hoped it would do" and the animal's broken arm is healing nicely.

“She has tolerated this cast much better than the temporary one that was placed on her arm during surgery to repair her broken bone,” Cincinnati Zoo’s primate team leader, Ashley Ashcraft, said in the release. “Despite it weighing about 8 pounds, she’s been able to get around better than we expected.”

According to the zoo, Ashcraft and the rest of the gorilla care team have been closely monitoring Gladys during her weeks-long recovery. Though she is not currently sharing space with the other gorillas, she is able to hear and see them.

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“The keepers have done a fantastic job keeping Gladys distracted and happy so she can heal, and the X-rays from yesterday show that healing is happening,” Cincinnati Zoo’s director of animal health, Dr. Mike Wenninger, said in the release. “We’re going to keep her in a cast for another few weeks. After that, she will require physical therapy but should be able to use her arm like she used to.”

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The zoo p -

lans to keep Gladys isolated for a few weeks after the cast is removed so that she can slowly reacclimate and be reintroduced to her troop.

While Gladys awaited her titanium cast, the veterinary team helped keep her arm from getting stiff and losing range of motion by doing moving and stretching exercises. "They will work with Gladys to make similar movements on her own after she’s out of the cast for good," Cincinnati Zoo veterinarian Dr. Jessica Heinz said in the release.

In a previous update on April 23, the zoo shared that Gladys had been tolerating her titanium cast much better than her temporary cast — despite its heavier weight — noting that gorillas have incredibly strong arms.

"She’s been locomoting comfortably, adapting her movements to the cast carefully and safely," Victoria McGee, Cincinnati Zoo’s zoological manager of primates, said in the release. "Before the titanium cast, we were very limited on the spaces Gladys could safely be in. With this addition, Gladys can 'graduate' to additional behind-the-scenes spaces that will allow her to have more choice and exploration throughout the day.”

According to Shannon Morman, advanced lead engineer at Colibrium Additive, the titanium cast was printed in under three days.

“One benefit of 3D printing is fast turnaround times," Morman explained in the release. "Following a call on Friday afternoon, our team met up over the weekend to create initial design ideas. The following Monday we scanned the original cast to create a 3D model and were ready to start printing the same day. The titanium cast took around 65 hours to print, and we were able to deliver it to the zoo team in under a week."

Gladys, who was born in January 2013 at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, moved to the Cincinnati Zoo as an infant and was later placed with surrogate gorilla mom M’Linzi.

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