Beaks are extremely important to birds, allowing them to hold objects and feed themselves. One can easily imagine the problems that a blue and gold macaw named Max experienced, when his beak was pulled off after two fights with other birds. Human caretakers helped him eat again, and when his remaining lower beak grew too long, they regularly shortened it so it was the right size for his tongue.
In search of a long-term solution, a South African team of veterinarians, doctors and other professionals led by Prof. Gerhard Steenkamp worked together to design and attach a 3D-printed beak for Max. As has been previously covered on Flayrah, many other animals have also received prosthetics when they've needed them.
My first story for Flayrah was about Oscar, the first cat to get prosthetic limbs. Only one line – it was before Newsbytes were added – but the feline Oscar remains a good role model. (Unfortunately, the human Oscar, my fellow South African, multiple gold-winning Paralympian and first amputee to compete in the able-bodied Olympics, dropped the ball in that regard.)
There are many other examples of animals with prosthetics. Perhaps the most notable would be Winter, a dolphin with a prosthetic tail. In 2011, her story was adapted into a feature film, Dolphin Tail. Moving from a cat to her demonstrates the breadth of animals that these tools and surgeries are helping.
British medical researchers are calling for tighter regulation on research involving animals with human tissue or genes, while cautiously approving some experiments, the BBC reports.
Professor Christopher Shaw highlighted objectionable 'category three' experiments such as:
- the mixing of non-human primate and human cells to make an embryo
- the mixing of human and non-human gametes (reproductive cells)
- the replacement of monkey brain cells with human ones to gain human characteristics
Dr Robin Lovell-Badge suggested a gap between fantasy and reality:
Everyone laughs at talking meerkats and cats with opposable thumbs, but if we were actually doing that in the labs I don't think people would be so happy.
Should dolphins be treated as 'non-human people'? That's the argument of some scientists and ethical researchers, who claim their sense of self, social talents, relative brain size, and ability to perform complex tasks put them second only to humans. [Soulskill/Slashdot]
The point was also made last year at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science – publishers of the well-known journal Science.