Three years ago, animal rights activist Tayfun Demir found a wounded squirrel near his home in Istanbul. He took him to a vet and started sharing videos of the newly named Alf to encourage an appreciation of squirrels in Turkey.
So, when a young man in a nearby city found a wounded squirrel, he remembered hearing about Demir and immediately sought his help. The squirrel had been seriously injured after being caught in a hunter's trap. Demir went to get her and brought her back to Istanbul. He named her Karamel.
"I took Karamel to a vet clinic that specializes in treatment of cats," Demir tells MNN. "They X-rayed Karamel and told me that both of her arms were broken. They operated on her and she was feeling much better. Initially, as she was in a very bad state, I was worried that she would not be able to pull it through, but she did. She is a strong-willed squirrel."
Although her spirit quickly rebounded, her body didn't.
"Unfortunately, as the trap seemed to have caused permanent damage to the nerves on her arms, her arms did not get better and therefore she had to go through a second surgery to get her arms amputated," Demir says. "She is quite well at the moment."
Helping Karamel stay mobile
Hoping to give Karamel improved mobility, Demir is working with orthopedists at Istanbul’s Aydin University to develop prosthetics for her to get around.
In this video from the university in Turkey, you can watch as they fit her with an early prototype to much media fanfare.
“He [sic] is a wild animal trying to live in a home. He has a foreign object attached to his body. His reaction to this object was important to us," Mustafa Gultekin, one of the orthopedists, told Reuters. "We passed this phase. We are now at the phase of walking.”
Demir is working with the orthopedists as they continue to develop the perfect set of wheels to keep Karamel moving.
"It's the first time for a squirrel on the earth," Demir says. "I am sure she will use it in her new life."