After two years, lots of TLC and one ingenious prosthetic, Winter the dolphin is back in action at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater, Fla., according to their recent news release.
Having lost her tail when stuck in a crab trap, she is now using a specially made 2 ½ -foot prosthetic replacement that allows her to swim more effectively — and it has made her the star of the show.
“She had to learn to swim without a tail, which no dolphin has ever done in captivity,” says David Yates, director of the aquarium, to the London Daily Mail newspaper. “We didn’t know if she could do that. But vets feared her [continued] wagging might damage her spine.”
Odds didn’t look good for Winter when she was found by the aquarium’s staff two years ago. At three months old, Winter had gotten herself wrapped tightly in a crab trap line near Cape Canaveral and was unable to escape. After being rescued, she went through extensive rehabilitation, which resulted in the loss of her tail and two vertebrae because of her severe injuries, according to the report.In order to protect her spine, the aquarium enlisted the help of Kevin Carroll, vice president of Hangar Prosthetics and Orthotics, and Mike Walsh, a marine mammal veterinarian and trainer at the aquarium, to create a tail for Winter.
“Little did I know it would take a year and a half,” Carroll says. “With a person, when we fit a socket we have one long, solid bone. We don’t have the socket moving in every direction.”
Winter has adapted to having the stretchy, plastic sleeve slipped over what’s left of her tail and off she goes. Though Winter is still learning how to use the tail, she is slowly beginning to swim up and down like her other dolphin friends in the aquarium as opposed to side-to-side, which she was forced to do before, according to the report. For information about Winter, visit www.cmaquarium.org
— Elizabeth Ellis