How a Turtle With Fake Limbs Got a Leg Up (Video- Photos)

Medical advances continue to help both people and animals. Usually when it comes to animals one thinks of domestic animals but now medical science is even reaching out to wild animals that have been injured. In 2004, a dolphin at an aquarium in Okinawa, southern Japan, became the first in the world to be fitted with a rubber tail fin to replace the one it lost due to illness.

More recently a sea turtle who lost her front fins during a shark attack was outfitted with the latest in artificial flipper technology in Japan. The 25 yr. old sea turtle named Yu, weighs 96 kilograms (212 pounds) and has a shell 82 centimetres (32 inches) long. She was pulled out of a fisherman's net and sent to the Suma Aqualife Park in mid-2008.

In what was believed to be a shark attack, Yu lost one third of her right limb and half of the left limb. The aquarium started developing artificial limbs for Yu in late 2008 as she could only swim at about 60 per cent of her normal speed. Earlier versions of flippers were squeezed onto the stumps but they were apparently painful to Yu.

This last time the rubber limbs were attached to a vest that was slipped over her head. The aquarium's curator, Naoki Kamezaki said, "We have worked hard to design the vest in a way that prevents the turtle from taking it off unwittingly. It can flutter the limbs as the vest is soft."

"Similar attempts have been made to attach artificial limbs to turtles around the world. But we have not heard if they went well.

Ours may be the only case in which a turtle with artificial limbs is still swimming without a problem," said Kamezaki, an expert on sea turtles, whose surname coincidentally means "turtle cape" in Japanese.

Yu, was apparently in agreement as she was happily test-driving her 27th pair of the artificial front flippers around her home aquarium near Kobe in western Japan, where she draws large crowds.


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