A 25-year-old loggerhead turtle that lost her fins to a shark attack received a new pair of prosthetic limbs on Tuesday. Scientists at the Suma Aqualife Park in Kobe, Japan, designed the new limbs using the latest developments in artificial flipper technology and—after 26 earlier attempts at replacing her fins—have finally enabled the turtle to finally swim at a normal speed.
Yu, a 25-year-old female sea turtle had lost one third of her right limb and half of her left limb by the time she was rescued and brought to Suma Aqualife Park to begin her rehabilitation. Researchers started developing artificial limbs that would allow her to swim at her normal speed. Most of the early versions were stumps that caused discomfort to Yu. The new rubber limbs, the 27th pair since then, are attached to a vest slipped over her head.
“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,” said aquarium curator Naoki Kamezaki whose name actually means “turtle cape” in Japanese.
There have been other attempts to design artificial limbs for turtles but, according to Kamezaki, Yu’s prosthetic legs may be the first success story.