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Lending a flipper

 

A three-year-old Atlantic green sea turtle that marine conservationists have named Allison was found last summer by TexasGulfCoast tourists, bleeding and missing three of her flippers, according to a report in the Miami Herald.

Normally the injured turtle would have been euthanized, but an intern at Sea Turtle Inc. (www.seaturtleinc.com), the non-profit sea turtle “hospital” where she was brought, begged for the chance to nurse her back to health, according to the report.

Through injections of antibiotics and a forced diet of squid, Allison, who was named after one of the daughters of the good Samaritan tourists, persevered.

Only five inches when she was found, Allison now weighs 10 pounds, though she can only move in counter-clockwise circles and push off the bottom of her shallow-water tank with her head. But now, curators at the facility are looking into the possibility of fitting a prosthetic flipper to the small bony stump on her left rear side.

A group of veterinary and medical professionals, some from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and the UT Dental Branch in Houston have volunteered to help Allison be the first turtle ever to be fitted for a prosthetic limb, according to the report.

University of Texas’ Dr. Sudarat Kiat-amnuay plans to use the same silicon used in facial prosthetics for the flipper, and the delicate hardware she uses for dental implants will be the ideal size for Allison, according to the report. She even plans on hand-painting the flipper to match Allison’s coloring.

Though this is a medical breakthrough for sea turtles, two dolphins have been successfully fitted for prosthetic body parts, according to the report.

- Elizabeth Ellis

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