Several years ago, a loggerhead sea turtle was discovered while entangled in fishing nets off the coast of Japan. Severely injured from what researchers believe was a nasty shark attack, the turtle was missing her two front fins.
Partially backed by an outpouring of funding from concerned citizens, researchers from the University of Tokyo devised a way for the animal to have a better life; they fit the turtle, now known as Yu Chan, with prosthetic flippers.
According to National Geographic, these are actually the 27th pair engineered by Yu Chan’s doctors. As human prosthetic technology evolves, so too does the turtle’s. Her prostheses are often updated and tested to see which will allow her the greatest mobility and eventually, also allow her a faster swimming speed. This current model involves a soft vest that slips over her head and attachments that allow her mobility on land and in the water.
As Naoki Kamezaki, the director of the Sea Turtle Association, told the AFP, “Ours may be the only case in which a turtle with artificial limbs is still swimming without a problem.”
Yu Chan currently resides at the Suma Aqualife Park in Kobe, Japan, where she will remain for the foreseeable future. But her story isn’t over; her doctors continue to find ways to improve her flippers so that eventually Yu Chan’s disability doesn’t hold her back from keeping up with her able-bodied counterparts.