By Georgina Campbell
"Bagpipes the penguin has happy feet once again.
The little blue penguin had his left leg amputated after it became tangled in fishing line in 2007 and has hopped and wriggled his way around his new home at the International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch ever since.
On Wednesday the imbalance was redressed. Bagpipes was fitted with a 3D-printed replacement foot to help him swim, stand and waddle like a penguin should.
"He's our resident bad boy with a soft streak," penguin keeper Mal Hackett said.
Tentatively, he skated across the room. He fell flat on his stomach a few times but managed to haul himself back up.
Hackett said Bagpipes had spent almost a decade with various foam beer bottle holders cut to size and wrapped around his stump to give him some support ,but he still struggled.
"When he gets out of the pool he is using parts of his body that he shouldn't, like his beak and flippers, so hopefully this prosthetic will help with that."
Antarctic Centre staff believed it was the first time a wild animal in New Zealand had been fitted with a 3D-printed prosthetic.
University of Canterbury senior lecturer in design and manufacturing Don Clucas said it took about 30 hours to design the foot.
Bagpipes had his remaining foot scanned so a perfect replica could be created.
Then Clucas worked on a computer design, refined the model and printed the prosthetic.
"The hardest part was scanning his foot because he is quite wriggly," he said.
Wednesday was the first time Bagpipes tried the models, which had varying lengths and joints.
"The fitting today has gone better than expected," Clucas said.
"We still need to make a few adjustments like making it easier to clip on the prosthetic and keep it in place on his legs."
The prosthetic is made from plastic but the final fitting will include a rubber material to help Bagpipes with his grip.
Bagpipes was treated by a Scottish vet when he was found on the West Coast in 2007.
The vet wanted to name him Haggis but the centre persuaded him to settle on Bagpipes."
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