This is the story of a daring first attempt on the part of the veterinarian to save the life of a turtle who lost her front flipper by getting entangled in a fishing gear.
An Olive Ridley female turtle got entangled in a fisherman’s net and injured her front flippers, leaving her totally handicapped.
Out of the four flippers, the front two help turtles to swim and change direction. Without the front flippers, a turtle just cannot move or swim and that can mean an end to its life.
The crippled turtle was brought in during the monsoon last year, amid much excitement, to the Injured Sea Turtle & Wildlife Transit Center.
The visiting veterinarian Dr. Dinesh Vinherkar attended to her. The vet waited for the turtle’s injuries to heal.
He then measured the stump of her limb. The doctor then set about, trying for the first time to design an artificial plastic prosthetic flipper for this unfortunate female turtle.
“Initially , we were not sure it would help as generally the body tends to reject any foreign object. But in this case, it was almost a miracle,” Dr. Vinherkar told the Times of India.
“Within an hour of attaching the artificial flipper, this turtle started inching ahead. We were surprised at how quickly she had adapted.”
The flipper moves with the help of the bone and the muscle of the stump. After four days of the attaching of the flipper, the plastic prosthetic was removed to check if there was any injury caused to the original limb due to friction. To his relief, “We did not find any such injury,” he said.
Dr. Vinherkar wondered if there was any further scope for improvisation and then set about making a new flipper out of the fiber plastic material used to make fishing boats.
“Fiber plastic does not decay or rot in water. So, it will not harm the turtle when it is released in a water body. Such crippled turtles cannot be released into sea,” he added.
This success story has brought in new hope to the center. “We are glad our first attempt was successful,” said Vinherkar. “We often find such crippled sea creatures. Now, we will develop more such flippers.”
Dr. Vinhekar’s attempt was truly commendable! Attempts are being made to make sure there is no fishing of turtles during their breeding season.
The center is managed by Wildlife Conservation & Animal Welfare Association and housed on the forest department’s Dahanu campus in India.