South Florida Wildlife Center

A Gopher Tortoise’s Tale: Resilience and Creativity at South Florida WildlifeCenter

A Gopher Tortoise’s Tale: Resilience and Creativity at South Florida WildlifeCenter

In the realm of wildlife rehabilitation, every patient’s journey is a testament to resilience, innovation, and the unwavering commitment of those at the South Florida Wildlife Center (SFWC). Today, we bring you the inspiring tale of a gopher tortoise, a survivor of a car accident, whose healing path took a creative turn with the use of Legos.

A Dramatic Rescue: On the evening of May 6th, a good Samaritan witnessed a gopher tortoise being hit by a car in Labelle, Florida. Acting swiftly, she brought the injured tortoise to SFWC, where our team of experts initiated a thorough examination. The prognosis was daunting – a significant carapace shell fracture with part of the lung exposed and a fracture in the right hind leg (tibia and fibula).

Innovative Healing with Legos: Addressing fractures in large tortoises poses unique challenges. The typical methods of splinting and immobilization proved unsuccessful for our patient, given his size and activity level. Enter creativity and innovation: the SFWC team, inspired by articles about tortoise wheelchairs, decided to fashion a custom Lego wheelchair. Dr. Sheppard, with the assistance of a working engineer, meticulously designed and attached a Lego base to the tortoise’s shell using Marine Epoxy.

A Unique Wheelchair Design:The Lego wheelchair, a marvel of creativity, allowed the gopher tortoise to move freely without bearing weight on his fractured leg. It was a success, providing a practical solution to a complex problem. Encouraged by the positive outcome, the SFWC doctors proceeded with surgical fixation, placing metal pins into the bones and stabilizing them with an external rod to align the fracture.

Slow and Steady Healing: As the saying goes with tortoises, “slow and steady wins the race.” The healing process for chelonians can be lengthy, taking over a year for fractures to fully heal. About two months into his healing journey, the pins were removed due to an infection complication. However, six months after the Lego wheelchair’s introduction, the gopher tortoise’s fracture is mostly healed.

Dedicated Rehabilitation and Hope for the Future:The dedicated team of wildlife rehabbers at SFWC played a pivotal role in the gopher tortoise’s recovery. His journey, marked by creativity, resilience, and expert care, showcases the extraordinary lengths the SFWC team goes to ensure the well-being of every patient.

Looking Ahead to Christmas:With Christmas on the horizon, there’s hope that the gopher tortoise will continue his rehabilitation journey without the assistance of his Lego wheelchair. The progress made is a testament to the collaborative efforts of the SFWC team and the indomitable spirit of this remarkable tortoise.

The story of the gopher tortoise exemplifies the South Florida Wildlife Center’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of wildlife rehabilitation. Every patient, regardless of size or species, receives innovative and compassionate care. Your support makes these stories of resilience and recovery possible.

About the South Florida Wildlife Center:The South Florida Wildlife Center relies on the generosity of supporters to continue its mission of rescue, rehabilitation, and education. Your contributions help us provide exceptional care to wildlife in need. Donate today and be a part of our commitment to wildlife conservation.