Turtle gets a pair of artificial flippers


A Loggerhead turtle at an aquarium in Japan has been given a pair of artificial front flippers.

The female turtle, named Yu, was washed up on a beach five years ago with her flippers badly damaged, following what was thought to have been a shark attack.

She was seriously injured with half of one of her flippers missing and a third of the other gone. Staff at Suma Aqualife Park in Kobe nursed her back to health before enlisting the help of researchers and a local manufacturer of prosthetic limbs to help get her back in the swim.

It's taken 27 attempts to get the prosthetic flippers this far, with earlier versions either being uncomfortable for the 25-year-old turtle to wear, or falling off quickly.

This latest version is made of rubber, fixed together with a material used in wetsuits and attached to a vest which is slipped over her head. It was claimed a success, with Yu swimming round the aquarium without any problems.

Unfortunately a few days after the new flippers were unveiled, one of them fell off when Yu entered the water, so it's back to the laboratory. But the team refuses to give up.

While the park's director, Naoki Kamezaki, said that it's unlikely Yu will ever live a normal turtle life, he still has hopes.

"My dream for her is that one day she can use her prosthetic fins to swim to the surface, walk about, and dig a proper hole to lay her eggs in. When her children hatch, well, I just feel that would make all the trauma in her life worthwhile."

Why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? See our latest subscription offer.