Turtle Lost Legs in Shark Attack, Gets Prosthetic Fins

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One sea turtle is getting a second chance at swimming after it was fitted with prosthetic fins on Tuesday.

Yu is a 25-year-old female loggerhead turtle, and was testing out her 27th pair of artificial front fins in an aquarium near Kobe in western Japan. Yu lost her legs to a shark attack.

As she swam swiftly through her aquarium with her artificial fins, she drew a crowd.

The limbs 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,” aquarium curator Naoki Kamezaki said. “It can flutter the limbs as the vest is soft.”

Earlier attempts to fit Yu with prosthetic limbs failed, as they often proved painful for her.

She was discovered in 2008 by fishermen when she was caught in a net. One third of her right limb was bitten off and half of the left limb was gone as well. She was sent to the Suma Aqualife Park.

Once they received her, they started developing artificial limbs for her. Without the limbs, she could only swim at 60 percent of a normal sea turtle’s speed.

“Similar attempts have been made to attach artificial limbs to turtles around the world. But we have not heard if they went well,” Kamezaki said. Ironically, his last name means “turtle cape” in Japanese.

“Ours may be the only case in which a turtle with artificial limbs is still swimming without a problem.”

Yu weighs 212 pounds and has a shell 32 inches long.

Various sea creatures have been given artificial legs and fins. In 2004, a dolphin was given a rubber tail fin after it lost its own from an illness.