Turtle maimed by brutal shark encounter gets prosthetic flippers

February 16, 2013

Turtle maimed by brutal shark encounter gets prosthetic flippers

Keepers at the Suma Aqualife Park in the Japanese city of Kobe are trying to help a loggerhead turtle swim normally again.

A loggerhead turtle maimed by a brutal encounter with a shark is swimming again thanks to a pair of prosthetic flippers. CNN reports that Yu-chan modeled her new flippers Monday at the Suma Aqualife Park in the Japanese city of Kobe.

This, however, is not the first time that Yu-chan has received a new pair of rubber flippers. CNN notes that the female loggerhead turtle has worked with 26 other pairs of flippers since being rescued from a Japanese fishing net in 2008.

The first 26 pairs of flippers either fell off Yu-chan or caused her too much pain, according to Reuters.

Naoki Kamezaki, the Suma Aqualife Park’s director general, told Reuters that finding the right pair of prosthetic flippers has not been easy. “I wanted to give up,” Kamezaki admitted. However, the park’s director general noted that the most recent version of the prosthetic flippers were attached to Yu-chan on February 11.

Unfortunately, one of the flippers slipped off Yu-chan as she started swimming Friday, requiring keepers to head back to the laboratory to work on a new pair of prosthetic flippers.

Kamezaki told Reuters that he hopes to one day see Yu-chan “dig a proper hole to lay her eggs in.”

Loggerhead turtles are the most populous of all the marine turtle species in U.S. waters, according  to National Geographic. However, persistent population decline due to pollution, shrimp trawling and other factors have kept the loggerhead turtle on the threatened species list since 1978.

National Geographic notes that adult males reach approximately three feet in shell length and weigh about 250 pounds. However, loggerhead turtles weighing more than 1,000 pounds have been discovered. They primarily eat jellyfish, conchs, crabs and fish, but will also consume seaweed and sargassum.

Will Yu-chan ever be able to comfortably swim again? Any ideas for new prosthetic flipper designs? Share your thoughts in the comments section.


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