Friday, February 29, 2008
Sea turtle gets a new man made flipper
When tourists found a 5-inch green sea turtle bloody and missing three of her flippers, the people who run a hospital for the endangered animals here gave her little chance of survival. But the turtle persevered, thanks to injections of antibiotics and a forced diet of squid. Somehow, she swam with just one flipper, even though she can only move in counterclockwise circles and has to push her now 10-pound body off the bottom with her head to breathe. "The wounds have healed very nicely. The problem is she doesn't swim very well," said Jeff George, curator at the nonprofit Sea Turtle Inc., a 31-year-old turtle conservation facility that treats and returns injured sea turtles to the wild. Now, her caregivers hope to make her what's believed to be the first sea turtle fitted with a prosthetic flipper. Three-flipper turtles can return to the sea and two-flipper turtles can survive in captivity. But because an Atlantic green sea turtle like Allison can grow to 450 pounds and live a century or so, her long-term prognosis with only one flipper is not promising. As she has a small bony stump there that could help hold a fake flipper, University of Texas' Dr. Sudarat Kiat-amnuay plans to develop a prosthetic using the same kind of silicon she uses to create facial prosthetics for humans.