Tortoise whose shell got burnt in a fire gets world’s first new hand-painted 3D-Shell

Tortoise whose shell got burnt in a fire gets world’s first new hand-painted 3D-Shell

This calls for a huge shell-ebration!

It’s satisfying to know that there are still people out there who would go to any lengths to preserve and protect wildlife. A team of animal prosthetic specialists in Brazil has created the world’s first 3D shell for a tortoise who was badly burned in a fire. The story was originally published by the Brazilian outlet Fantastico and translated by The Huffington Post. [1]

A Brazilian tortoise, later named after the horror movie character Freddy Krueger, was caught in a terrible wildfire that scorched 85 percent of her shell. She was on the brink of death, having starved for 45 days, and made it through two episodes of pneumonia before she was found.

Fred was rescued by a volunteer team based in Sao Paulo called Animal Avengers, made up of a surgeon, three vets, a dental surgeon, and a 3D designer. They all have superhero nicknames and are some of the most dedicated animal rescue professionals in the world.

“When we saw the animal in that state, we said ‘Wow! It looks like Freddy Krueger,’” Dr. Rodrigo Rabello, nicknamed “Thor”, said to Fantastico. “It is the first prosthetic of a 3D shell of a tortoise in the world.”

The process

Fred’s prosthetic shell required over 200 hours of hard work to build. 

“It took about 40 photos [to build a model and reconstruct the shell]. We took a healthy animal, took the same 40 photos, reconstructed that animal in 3D and put it into the computer,” graphic designer Cicero Moraes, “The Hulk”, told Fantastico.

He designed an incredibly strong shell for the tortoise, printed in four different pieces to be clicked around the animal like a jigsaw puzzle. The pieces were printed from a corn-based refractory plastic by Dr. Paulo “Vision” Miamoto, the dental surgeon. 

“Just to make [a] single piece it took 50 hours of printing, which is much more than we imagined,” Miamoto.

They stuck to their goals and produced a masterpiece that would protect Freddy and give her all the protection her old shell brought.

They tested the shell around the animal and it fit like a charm, clicking perfectly into a large hull that probably felt just like her old one. The only glitches were the color and texture. The prosthetic was white, looked far too artificial and would have made Fred look out of place.

The team then got a Brazilian artist, Yuri Caldera, to paint a more natural color on the prosthetic, a replica of the shells found on Fred’s species. The group took their time to find a paint that wouldn’t wear away the top surface of the shell or cause the animal respiratory distress. 

Finally, she was fitted with her new shell and has been on the straight path to recovery ever since.

Making a difference

Freddy is now living with Rabello, who has confirmed she’s faring better and doing remarkably well. The Avengers are impressed with the new milestone and are looking forward to achieving more.

While the prosthetic consumed a lot of time, it was relatively low-cost as the materials for production cost only $136. 

“This is a mark in veterinary medicine. From now on we will have a new age. Especially when it comes to wild animals,” he said. “It’s a total satisfaction, we’ll always strain to save a life, no matter whose.”

The Avengers have severally used the same 3D technology to print prosthetics for animal rehabilitation, such as beaks for birds, hooves for cattle, and paws for dogs. 

 Mutilated animals deserve a second chance. In many parts of the world, they would either be abandoned or euthanized due to a deformation they didn’t choose to have. The Animal Avengers are working hard to give animals like Freddy another chance at a happy life.

According to a vet in the team, Dr. Roberto Fecchio, their passion for helping animals brought them together.

“We first came together as friends because of our common love of science and our love for animals,” Dr. Fecchio said. “We soon realized we could do some extraordinary work using cutting-edge technology to push back the boundaries of life-saving care for mutilated animals by giving them customized prostheses.”

Kudos to the team! The world needs more passionate people like them.


  1. Tortoise Injured In Fire Gets New Hand-Painted, 3D-Printed Shell.” Huff Post. 2016.