SAN JOSE, Costa Rica, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- A Keel-billed toucan who was garishly mutilated last month by a gang of teenagers in Latin America -- sparking worldwide outrage -- could be on its way to a full recovery, thanks to new 3D prosthetic technology and a team of volunteers.
The male toucan, named Grecia after the town in which it lives, is a half-wild and half-tame bird that is friendly to humans and was kept as a quasi pet in the town, where residents would feed it.
In January, a gang of teenagers attacked the bird with a wooden block and broke the top half of its colorful beak, according to The Costa Rica News. The beak is vitally important to the toucan, which uses it to eat and regulate its body temperature. More than 50 percent of the bird's upper beak was taken off in the attack.
After Grecia was wounded, the bird was taken to an animal rescue clinic, Zoo Ave. The center's director, Guisella Arroyo, said it will take more than a month for the animal to recover.
News of the bird's wounding caught fire in Costa Rica, where several companies and animal care specialists in modeling and printing three-dimensional prosthetic devices are trying to design a replacement beak for Grecia. Thousands of dollars have also been raised to help pay for its care.
Due to the severity of the injury, Grecia could not eat on his own for weeks, and relied on attendants at Zoo Ave for nourishment and proper medicine, TCRN reported. BBC News reported last week that the bird had finally started eating without assistance.
Animal cruelty is commonplace in Central America. Zoo Ave said it treats thousands of abused and abandoned animals every year, and the current laws of most nations there impose little or no punishment on abusers.
However, perhaps as a direct result of the assault on Grecia, Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís last month addressed the need for lawmakers to change the nation's antiquated view on animal cruelty, the Tico Times reported. During a press conference last month, Solis called several recent cases of animal abuse "barbarous" and "savage."
Toucans are colorful birds of Central and South America and the Caribbean, whose large and colorful beaks have come to be their hallmark. Even though the toucan's bill is large, it is very lightweight -- composed largely of spongy material and keratin.
Due to the severity of Grecia's injury, animal welfare specialists said he will never be able to return to his old habitat in the wild. However, thanks to the team of volunteers and community support he will likely adapt to his new environment and regain quality of life.
This video illustrates a three-dimensional model concept that Rescate Animal Zoo Ave is considering for Grecia.