July 7, 2009--
Yu-Chan, a 20-year-old loggerhead sea turtle
that lost her front flippers to a shark (left), tested the waters with her new limbs (right) in Japan
in June 2009.
The Sea Turtle Association of Japan
outfitted the reptile with sample flippers—made by the Kawamura Gishi Company—for a trial swim in a saltwater pond near the Kobe airport.
If Yu-Chan takes to her new limbs, she will be released back into the wild. Without them, the disabled turtle can move at only about 60 percent of her former speed, making her vulnerable to more shark attacks, the conservation group told the Mainichi Daily News.
The turtle's new limbs would be a "global first" if they work, conservationists say: The only other known attempt at turtle prosthetics was made last spring on a U.S. green sea turtle named Allison
, whose stump was ultimately not big enough to hold a fake flipper.
From false fins to replacement beaks, see pictures of the various advanced prosthetics that have given injured animals new leases on life in recent years.
Photographs courtesy Kawamura Gishi