25 Year Old Turtle Gets Prosthetic Flippers After Shark Attack

Category: Science / Feb 15, 2013 10:40AM EDT
Life as a sea turtle couldn't have got much worse for Yu when she washed up in a Japanese fishing net five years ago, her front flippers torn to shreds after a brutal encounter with a shark. But now keepers at an aquarium in Japan's western city of Kobe are battling to find a high-tech solution to the 25-year-old female loggerhead turtle's devastating handicap. Where once there were stumps, now Yu has a pair of rubber flippers. Researchers and local prosthetics makers worked together so that Yu could swim again. The flippers are made from rubber and fixed together with a material used in diving wet suits. Development has not been easy. This week Yu got her 27th pair of prosthetic fins, after previous models caused her discomfort or dropped off soon after fitting. But with the new pair also slipping off as soon as she hit the water on Friday (February 15), these too seemed not fit her fins. Sea turtles live mostly in the ocean and often migrate long distances, but adult females return to land to lay their eggs along beaches. Loggerhead turtles are a favorite treat for tiger sharks, but environmental groups say man has pushed them to the brink of extinction. Northern Pacific loggerheads have seen the sharpest population decline among all sea turtles in recent years, dropping by at least 80 percent over the last decade.