A Japanese conservation group has tested a set of experimental prosthetic flippers for Yu-Chan, a loggerhead turtle who lost parts of both her front forelimbs in a shark attack. The Sea Turtle Association of Japan is working in conjunction the country’s largest prosthetics company, Kawamura Gishi, Osaka Prefecture, to design limbs that could allow Yu-Chan to return to the wild.
Yu-Chan’s caregivers have a considerable challenge ahead of them, according to The Japan Times. Loggerhead turtles, a threatened species, use their limbs differently on land and sea, can grow up to 800 pounds, are known to live as long as 195 years, and spend their time in saltwater and on sandy beaches. Yu-Chan, who was found trapped in a fishing net in June 2008, is a 150-pound female turtle who is thought to be only 20 years old. Covered in bite scars and missing half of one forelimb and a third of the other, she can currently swim at only 60 percent capacity.
The prototype flippers the volunteers tested in a saltwater pond outside of Kobe are the first in a project that the Japanese news site asahi.com estimates will cost several million dollars.
A Sea Turtle Association spokesperson told The Mainichi Daily News, “There has only ever been one known example of trying to fit a sea turtle with artificial limbs and that was in the U.S. If the turtle can swim stably with our artificial flippers, it will be a global first.”
For more information, see our previous news article “Turtle to Wear Prostheses.”