Yu, a 25 year old female loggerhead turtle that lost her legs to a shark attack, has been fitted with a new pair of legs, the latest in artificial flipper technology. She draws huge crowds in her home aquarium at the Suma Aqualife Park in Kobe.
Now weighing 96 kilograms and with a shell of 82 centimeters, Yu was pulled out of a fisherman’s net back in 2008. One third of her right limb and half of her left were already gone by the time she was rescued and brought to Suma to begin her rehabilitation. Researchers already started developing artificial limbs for her back then because she could only swim at 60% of her normal speed. The earlier versions were stumps, but they hurt the fragile turtle. Her new rubber limbs, the 27th pair since then, are attached to a vest slipped over her head. Aquarium 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.”
He also said that they have heard of other artificial limbs on turtles from other parts of the world, but they have no data on how successful they were. Kamezaki, whose name actually means “turtle cape” in Japanese said that theirs may be the first success story. We’d like to see Yu introduced to Oscar Pistorius, who made waves in last year’s London Olympics for being the first amputee to compete with able-bodied athletes.
[ via Telegraph UK ]