Hofesh the turtle Hofesh the turtle Hofesh the turtle is able to swim again, thanks to his prosthetic fin. (Photo: Yaniv Levy)

Disabled green sea turtle gets life-saving prosthetic fin

Endangered animal gets a second chance thanks to an Israeli student.

A disabled, endangered green sea turtle named Hofesh has gained new life – and possibly a new mate – after a college student found inspiration in the sky.

After washing ashore from the Mediterranean several years ago, the 20-year-old turtle was taken to a turtle rescue center with two badly damaged flippers. There, rescuers amputated the fins in a life-saving operation, but afterward Hofesh was unable to swim. He sank to the bottom, gasping for breath, and at one point had to be resuscitated.

"When he gets stressed, panicking for some reason, he gets into a spin as he can only use one side to paddle. His head tilts down to one side, and he starts taking in water,” Yaniv Levy, the center’s director, told NBC News in a recent video about the turtle.

With a lifespan of 80 years, Hofesh was a young turtle with no possibility of returning to the wild, and a bleak future in captivity. However, an Israeli industrial design student at Hadassah College in Jerusalem named Shlomi Gez heard about Hofesh and was inspired to help. Tinkering in the workshop, Gez employed his knowledge of design to fashion a new prosthetic in the shape of a dorsal fin. And when that didn’t work, it appeared that Hofesh would never breathe easy.

The eureka moment came soon, though, for Gez, who developed yet another prosthetic – based roughly on the aerodynamics of Lockheed Martin’s fifth-generation fighter jet, the F-22 Raptor, built for the U.S. Air Force. Perhaps improving on nature, Gez designed the new prosthetic with not just one but two dorsal fin structures.

“I discovered it worked better than one fin on the back,” Gez told the Press Association. “With two fins, he keeps relatively balanced, even above the water.”

Rescuers said they now plan to mate Hofesh with a young female named Tsurit, who was blinded in an accident.

The green sea turtle is listed as an endangered species; its subpopulation in the Mediterranean is considered critically endangered.



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