Meet Jary (pronounced ‘ya-ri’), a 22-year-old great hornbill at the Bird Park. Jary is a cancer survivor. His name means ‘warrior with a helmet’ in ancient Norse and he’s come a long way since he was first diagnosed with cancer. Rallying behind Jary is a team of dedicated veterinarians, keepers and 3D printing engineers determined to save his life.
The team has spared no effort in leveraging on scientific and technological advances in the treatment of first-world diseases to give the best possible care to our helmeted warrior. From a CT-guided biopsy to a 3D-printed casque, the treatment provided for Jary marks a first for hornbills and indeed, birds worldwide.
An X-ray taken of Jary’s casque area showed no signs of recurrence of the cancer. The vets also saw indications of new tissue growth, and they are happy to report that Jary appears to be healing well. Blood samples were also taken to check on the health of his vital organs and overall body condition.
In July 2018, Jary’s keepers noticed an 8cm-wide gash on his casque, exposing underlying tissue that looked unhealthy. Cancer was suspected. Jary was sent for a CT-guided biopsy, to extract a tissue sample from his casque for examination. The procedure was a first for us and possibly the first in a bird.
Analysis of the tissue sample confirmed that Jary had cancer. The avian vets devised a plan to remove the affected part of Jary’s casque through surgery and to replace it with a 3D-printed prosthesis. 3D printing engineers at NUS and Dr Hsu Li Chieh from The Animal Clinic were roped in for this.
In the first such surgery for a hornbill ever recorded in the world, Jary received his 3D-printed casque. It will stay with him till a new one grows back in. He was eating normally the day after the operation and after a short recovery time at the avian hospital ward, he’s now back in action in the park.
Jary has been colouring his prosthesis with yellow pigment from his preening gland, as great hornbills do naturally with their casque. This means he has accepted the artificial casque as a part of him. He’s been paired with a female and his keepers are hopeful they’ll hit it off.