Lame duck story: thanks to science, disabled mallard gets prosthetic foot

Here’s the usual heartwarmer to end the week. And I can’t refrain from saying this:  religion and prayer aren’t going to fix a duck’s amputated foot. (Remember “Why won ‘t God heal amputees?“) But science can—and did!

Last November a male duck named Buttercup was born (in a high-school biology lab!) with a deformed and backward-pointing foot.  He was transferred to the Feathered Angels Waterfowl Sanctuary in Tennesee, whose employees decided to help him. The foot was was amputated, and then the kindly people at the Sanctuary went into action.
Story and photos from C/Net Australia and  Treehugger

From C/Net:

After Buttercup had his foot amputated in February, Garey — a software engineer by trade — started looking into options for a replacement limb. Sure, Buttercup could have a peg leg; but what if Garey could replace the entire foot?

After shopping around for a service, he found 3D printing company NovaCopy, which agreed to donate its services to helping Buttercup walk again. Together, using photos of the left foot of Buttercup’s sister Minnie, they designed a brand new left foot for Buttercup.

The computer design:

Because the foot needs to be flexible, the usual plastics used in 3D printing aren’t viable. Instead, NovaCopy printed a mould, which will be used to cast a silicone foot for the lucky duck, creating several iterations of the design to come up with the perfect one. It will be attached to his foot via a silicone sheath.

“This version will have a stretchy silicone sock instead of the finger trap, which will roll up on his leg, be inserted into the foot and then have a fastener in the bottom,” Garey said. “If you saw Dolphin Tail, this material is similar to the WintersGel that they used.” WintersGel is a prosthetic liner that grips the amputated limb.

The replica of Minnie’s foot that will be used to create a prosthetic for Buttercup.
(Credit: Feathered Angels Waterfowl Sanctuary)
Of course Buttercup has his own Facebook page, which you can follow as the prosthesis is attached. The final fitting should be within two weeks.
Now maybe some of you are thinking, “Why all this fuss about a prosthetic foot for a duck? Why not just eat it?”  But I believe that ducks enjoy their lives, and can experience suffering and happiness. And I can’t help but believe that if this duck had a choice, it would want a new foot.  As an evolutionary biologist I see no qualitative distinction between the suffering of humans and animals—humans can just express it more emotively. And so I find it heartwarming that people are volunteering time and resources to improve the life of a single waterfowl.

The duck in the movie below might be Buttercup, though I’m not sure. It does, however, have an injured left foot:

h/t: Michael


  1. Diana MacPherson
    Posted June 28, 2013 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    ” As an evolutionary biologist I see no qualitative distinction between the suffering of humans and animals—humans can just express it more emotively.”

    I’m so glad you said that and I’m glad people put effort into the duck’s new foot!

    • Graham Lyons
      Posted June 28, 2013 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      I have the same sentiment. Being human themselves is the (unacknowledged) reason most people consider human suffering to matter more than that of other animals.
      I’ll conduct a short survey with the questions: “Is it more important to alleviate human than animal suffering and, if so, why?” and note the answers.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted June 28, 2013 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

        A good friend of my family used to believe that people shouldn’t have pets because you spent resources on them that should go to people. Inherent in this statement is the belief that people, no matter what, are worthy of more than other animals. I countered that I valued my pets more than a lot of people and certainly thought they deserved more resources than rapists and killers. My puckish remark (for a girl in her 20s) I’m hoping influenced him as now many years later, he has a cat and a dog and I think both of his daughters have pets. 🙂

        • Graham Lyons
          Posted June 29, 2013 at 2:29 am | Permalink

          I find that people who care about animal suffering (not just of their own pets) also care more about reducing human suffering than the average.

  2. Posted June 28, 2013 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    This is brilliant. Thanks for sharing.

    Now, this just occurred to me: why are you using the owl to represent you on twitter instead of the ceiling cat??

    And while I am at it, why do you prefer cats to dogs? I read previously that you have good reasons. Just curious.

  3. ginger k
    Posted June 28, 2013 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Jerry, if you don’t see a qualitative difference between the suffering of humans and other animals, why do you continue to eat meat?

    • jesperbothpedersen1
      Posted June 28, 2013 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      Maybe because it tastes good?

      • ginger k
        Posted June 28, 2013 at 10:44 am | Permalink

        Oy vey! So you can kill a living creature because of taste? Pathetic.

        • jesperbothpedersen1
          Posted June 28, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink

          Would it be more to your liking if it was because of nutritional value?

        • aspidoscelis
          Posted June 28, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

          What do you eat, then? Rocks?

          Plants are living creatures, too!

    • bonetired
      Posted June 28, 2013 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      The key word here is “suffering”. If an animal is raised ethically and then killed humanely and quickly then I see less of a problem. However, I believe that halal slaughtering methods should be banned worldwide since I really dislike inhumane methods of killing being used purely for religious reasons(not that that is going to happen)

      • ginger k
        Posted June 28, 2013 at 10:47 am | Permalink

        Agreed — all religious ritual slaughter should be banned.

        You raise an interesting point about ethical treatment and humane slaughter. Personally, I don’t see a problem with it. If someone has a family farm, treats their animals well, and humanely kills them, then that’s preferable than the horrors of factory farming.

  4. RFW
    Posted June 28, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Once saw a seagull (glaucous winged, if it matters) missing one foot. It managed quite well with just the stump, though it didn’t like putting much weight on it.

    Just like three-legged dogs and cats seem to not even notice they are disabled.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 28, 2013 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      I used to feed seeds to a chickadee who was missing a foot. It was branded and would eat out of your hand. Cute little thing didn’t seem slowed down at all.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted June 28, 2013 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      As a kid, we had a one-legged parakeet. It seemed to get along fine. I doubt the same would be true with a friend’s red-bellied parrot, tho. It seems to require one foot to stand on, and one foot to hold food with.

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 28, 2013 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

      I’ve got a regularly visiting one-legged crow which I see several times a week. Here’s a bird-forum post I made about it, with pics & a vid or two. (I need to add newer pics!)

  5. Richard Page
    Posted June 28, 2013 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Love it! 3D printing has the potential to be a revolutionary technology, and it’s advancing fast. Already, allows people to create their own designs… mostly trinkets for now, but who knows?(Just no guns, please.)

  6. bonetired
    Posted June 28, 2013 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Sigh … I bet his prosthesis doesn’t cut into his stump in the same way mine does ….

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted June 28, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink


      It’s from Össur of Iceland ~ groovy silicone Iceross liners are v. good for sensitive stumps. Almost as good as whisk[e]y.

      From the Össur site:- “Widely accepted as a superior suspension system, Iceross silicone prosthetic liners stabilize soft tissue, minimize pistoning (stretching), helping to improve circulation and add comfort”

      • bonetired
        Posted June 28, 2013 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        Wonder if I can get that on the NHS …?

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted June 28, 2013 at 11:50 am | Permalink

          You can. The NHS pays for mine. I use the Selly Oak clinic in Birmingham & it’s a standard product there, but each clinic is relatively free to choose which suppliers they use, so if your clinic doesn’t carry it you can put in a request for it & fight your corner. Failing that get your consultant to refer you to another clinic.

          Another advantage of silicone is the skin pores are eventually blocked & thus no sweat inside the liner ~ a great boon in summer.

          • bonetired
            Posted June 28, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

            Hmmm I go to Wolves .. Will ask there…

        • dean1
          Posted June 28, 2013 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

          I wear an Iceross liner and my pores have not closed. I suffer from profuse sweating during the summer and thus it is less comfortable.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted June 29, 2013 at 3:59 am | Permalink

            Excessive sweating inside a silicone liner is mostly caused, for most people, by a poorly fitting skin/liner & liner/socket interface.

            A loose fit causes:-

            1] Micro climate:- Regions of *tropical weather* air next to the stump. This is microbe heaven ~ one skin scratch & you have a sore. Ideally [impossible] there should be no air pockets at all

            2] Friction:- Akin to wearing flip-flops on a long hike ~ the looseness will eventually cause chaffing > skin cuts > infection > swelling > sores > pain

            You might want to try ALPS Prosthetic Antiperspirant [AP] ~ it has twice the amount of aluminium chlorohydrate as retail APs & doesn’t have the skin irritating chemicals found in most AP’s. Apply it to the skin & inside of the liner. A friend of mine uses an ordinary roll on

            It helps to….
            ** be underweight
            ** not seesaw in weight
            ** be generally active
            ** keep the skin & liner scrupulously clean [disinfected] or one ends up with a degree of trenchfoot 🙂

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted June 28, 2013 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      Also check out the *Christian* in the comment section of the Youtube video I linked to:-

      You will have your lost leg back to you. Read please Isaiah 35:5,6.- Remember that the miracles performed by Jesus in the year 29-30 AC, were done to proved that in the future our lovely creator certainly will restored what Adam and Eve lost, yes, a perfect BODY and with the perspective to live for ever , here on the earth.- Psalms 37:10,11.- Isaiah 45:18 Revelation 21:4.- Thanks for the video

      These people are shameless & utterly *tone deaf* leaving their slime trail all over the internet. I would bet good money s/he’s not an amputee & went away from commenting feeling righteous, warm & tingly ~ the Lord’s work.

      • bonetired
        Posted June 28, 2013 at 11:35 am | Permalink

        And those amputees who never had a leg? Will the leg that they never even had be restored? Yup … those bible bashers are vile …

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted June 28, 2013 at 11:41 am | Permalink

        They really have no shame.

        Posted June 28, 2013 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

        Not true!

        They do have a leg to stand on!

  7. Posted June 28, 2013 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    And I can’t help but believe that if this duck had a choice, it would want a new foot.

    …if this duck had a choice? …had a choice?!?!


  8. Beacon of Aquarius
    Posted June 28, 2013 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Beacon of Aquarius and commented:
    Posted by Beacon of Aquarius June 28 2013

  9. gravityfly
    Posted June 28, 2013 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Great story!

  10. ladyatheist
    Posted June 28, 2013 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    I wonder how long it will take for this technology to be used to create human naughty bits for play

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 28, 2013 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      Oh I’m sure that was done before anything else!

  11. Marella
    Posted June 28, 2013 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Lucky duck indeed.

    Posted June 28, 2013 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    In this particular case it was the patient who was the quack

  13. Shwell Thanksh
    Posted June 28, 2013 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    What a great example of geeks using their awesome genius powers to spread goodness-without-god all over the place!

  14. Josh
    Posted June 29, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Wonderful story.

  15. Posted May 3, 2014 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    With havin so much written content do you ever run into
    any issues of plagorism or copyright infringement? My site has a lot
    of unique content I’ve either authored myself or outsourced but
    it looks like a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my permission.
    Do you know any solutions to help protect against content from being
    stolen? I’d truly appreciate it.

%d bloggers like this: