These incredible photos show a cancer-stricken bird getting a 3D-printed prosthetic casque in Singapore

3D-printing has been used to revolutionise many different industries across the world, and now, it has been used to give a cancer-stricken great pied hornbill the chance to live.

Jary the bird, a resident at Singapore’s Jurong Bird Park, was diagnosed with cancer when a gash was discovered on it casque in July this year.

According to Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), two similar cases of cancer had been observed at the same park in the past, but both ended with the deaths of the birds involved.

Experts at the park soon determined that 22-year-old Jary would need a prosthetic casque if he was to survive the disease. The park then engaged the help of Keio-NUS CUTE (Connective Ubiquitous Technology for Embodiments) Centre, NUS Smart Systems Institute, and NUS Centre for Additive Manufacturing to produce the prosthesis.

On September 13, the bird underwent an operation to have his new casque attached.

Here are photos of the incredible procedure.


Earlier, Jary underwent a CT-guided biopsy at the Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Hospital to have a tissue sample from its affected casque extracted and examined.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore

This is a photo of Jary’s affected casque before the operation. Exposed tissue destroyed by the cancer can be seen.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore

Honorary consultant Dr Hsu Li Chieh from The Animal Clinic is seen here removing part of Jary’s casque with an oscillating saw. The operation took slightly over an hour to complete.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore

A drill guide is used to affix the 3D-printed casque onto Jary. This prosthesis will be on the hornbill until a new casque grows out.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore

Dr Xie Shangzhe, assistant director of Conservation, Research and Veterinary Services at WRS was part of the team working on Jary’s operation.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore

Jary’s new casque weighs 46 grams. The hornbill is currently under close observation at Jurong Bird Park’s Avian Hospital’s outdoor ward until the end of October.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore

Great Pied Hornbills are classified as Near Threatened in IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species, and can live up to 40 years on average. Jary was given its name as Jary (pronounced as ya-ri) means ‘a warrior with a helmet’ in ancient Norse.

Video screengrab

According to Dr Xie, Jary was eating normally a day after the big operation, and recently coloured its new casque yellow with the natural pigmentation on its tail.

“These natural behaviours are good indications that he has accepted the prosthesis as part of him,” Dr Xie said.

Video screengrab

A video of the operation was also uploaded on WRS’ Facebook page: