An injured turtle who gained a taste of Internet fame after he got a wheelchair made of Legos has had the device removed ahead of his winter brumation, a process similar to hibernation, said keepers at the Maryland Zoo.
The wild eastern box turtle was outfitted with the custom wheelchair this summer after a zoo employee found him in Druid Hill Park in Baltimore, Maryland.
The grapefruit-sized turtle underwent surgery to fix his fractured shell, and after receiving the wheelchair, quickly zoomed off to explore his surroundings.
Now, though, it's time for a few quiet months, which he's spending in an outdoor habitat filled with mulch and leaves, designed to mimic his natural habitat, the zoo said.
In preparation, a zoo vet removed the Lego wheelchair attached to the turtle's shell. In a video provided by the zoo this week, the turtle was shown with his head and limbs carefully tucked inside his shell until the process was finished.
The turtle quickly burrowed into the leaves after being placed in his winter habitat, the zoo's video shows. Keepers will check on him periodically over the next several months.
Once the turtle is fully healed, keepers hope to release him back into the wild.
"Turtles are really good at healing as long as the shell remains stable," Garrett Fraess, veterinary extern at the zoo, previously said.
'They Don't Make Turtle-Sized Wheelchairs'
Shortly after the turtle was found injured this summer, the zoo's veterinary team used metal bone plates, sewing clasps and surgical wire to hold pieces of his fractured shell together.
But his shell had to stay off the ground in order to heal, posing a challenge to staffers who had a hard time helping the turtle get around in the meantime.
That's when someone came up with the idea of the Lego wheelchair.
"He had multiple fractures on his plastron, the bottom part of his shell," said Dr. Ellen Bronson, senior director of animal health, conservation, and research at the zoo.
"They don't make turtle-sized wheelchairs. So, we drew some sketches of a customized wheelchair and I sent them to a friend who is a Lego enthusiast," Fraess said.
A few weeks later, the turtle received his own custom Lego wheelchair. Zoo officials said the turtle took off as soon as he was outfitted with the miniature design.