Skip navigation

Building 3D prosthetic beak for Karl, a hornbill

When it comes time to eat, Abyssinian ground hornbills pick up prey with their beak, toss it into the air and swallow it whole. But for Karl, the Zoo’s hornbill, eating was a challenge due to his worn down lower beak. To build a newer, stronger, better prosthetic beak for him, Zoo staff worked with museum specialists at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. The skull of a hornbill who lived at the Zoo in the 1930s was exactly what animal keepers, veterinarians and exhibit specialists needed to engineer a 3-D printed beak. Now, Karl can once again use his natural behavior to eat and keep his belly full


Tags: ,


  • W. Emlinger

    Karl got a ‘crown’! They replaced part of his missing beak with a reconstruction like dentists do for humans with missing parts of teeth! That is so cool!

  • Carol Doerflein

    “Collaborative” doesn’t begin to describe this effort. The sheer range of the Smithsonian’s institutions, holdings, research, and most of all its staff is what has made Karl’s return to more natural behavior possible. This is an argument for continued support of the irreplaceable treasure that the Smithsonian has become. I give emphasis to the human dimension because, after all, it took people to recognize the problem and to create a potential solution for it, then to carry it out without injury or harm to Karl. Thank you. You are inspiring. And good luck to Karl.

  • That is awesome!

    Thank u for helping Karl out!
    If beak stays on…
    Im sure karl will think
    4 months were short
    Compared 2 the rest of his life!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *