Thailand helps sea turtle swim again with prosthetic flippers

January 14, 2020

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PHUKET (Thailand): Goody, a female turtle, tests out the first prosthetic flipper that will help other sea turtles injured from fishing gears to swim again.—Reuters
PHUKET (Thailand): Goody, a female turtle, tests out the first prosthetic flipper that will help other sea turtles injured from fishing gears to swim again.—Reuters

PHUKET: Thai turtle Goody lost her left flipper years ago after she was entangled in a fishing net, leaving her immobile and stressed out in captivity.

But now Goody, an endangered olive ridley sea turtle, can swim with ease again, after receiving Thailand’s first prosthetic flipper last week.

“She’s swimming much better and she’s learning to use the two flippers to turn. You can see the difference,” said Nantarika Chansue, a veterinarian who took part in the development of Goody’s prosthetic flipper.

Over the past year, Thai environment authorities and researchers at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok have been working to develop prostheses for injured sea turtles, following similar projects in Japan and the United States.

Sea turtles are often injured or killed by human activities, most commonly by ingesting plastic or getting caught in fishing nets or lines, which can stop blood circulating to their limbs.

Previously, Goody was able to swim only with difficulty using her one right flipper, while living in a confined space with other injured turtles. Another 10 Thai turtles have similar injuries that could benefit from the project.

While the prostheses won’t help injured turtles become fit enough to return to the sea, they are aimed at improving their quality of life in captivity, Nantarika said.

“We are trying to develop some of the best ones ever created in the world,” Nantarika said.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2020