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Tuesday, January 26, 1999 Published at 22:51 GMT


Science smiles on 'bionic' falcon

Bracken shows off her artificial leg

Medical skill has provided a peg leg for a peregrine falcon and saved the bird's love life.

Richard Drax reports from the New Forest on Bracken's new lease of life
The leg had to be amputated after the bird was injured, possibly in a pole trap.

It was taken to the New Forest Owl Sanctuary where it was christened Bracken and nursed back to health.

BBC reports (BBC News 24)
A chance discussion in the pub with a friend who has two artificial legs led sanctuary owner Bruce Berry to the door of Bob Watts, managing director of Dorset Orthopaedic.

He said: "I've got a peregrine falcon, can you put a foot on it for me?"

[ image: Bob Watts: Adapted artificial limb technology]
Bob Watts: Adapted artificial limb technology
Mr Watts said there was no reason why a prosthetic, similar to those used by humans, could not be made for Bracken.

'Fits like a shoe'

After dismissing the idea of pinning the new limb to the bird's leg, he made a plaster mould from which he was able to construct a silicon leg which slips onto the stump like a shoe.

Mr Berry said: "Because it's a female we need it for breeding. Without the foot it can't balance and they need to balance to be able to mate."

[ image: Bruce Berry:
Bruce Berry: "Without the foot it cannot balance"
Following the successful fitting of the limb he is hoping to be able to breed from Bracken in June.

But Bracken is not the only bird benefiting from medical advances.

A rare Siberian eagle owl called Boris has had his sight restored following a two-and-a-half-hour cataract operation using lasers. The operation on the 20-year-old creature's eyes is thought to be a world first for the species.

It was paid for by an appeal which raised £2,000 in just two weeks.

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