The Israeli mind just cannot tolerate an unsolved medical problem, even in a turtle.
For an injured green sea turtle named “Hofesh” (the word in Hebrew means “freedom”) that nature resulted in a new lease on life.
Hofesh was snarled up in a fishing net off Israel’s Mediterranean coast early in 2009, his two left flippers completely mangled.
The nearly-dead turtle was brought to Israel’s Sea Turtle Rescue Center, where it became clear amputation was the only option.
The poor turtle was left with two stumps; attempts to fit clumsy divers’ flippers did him little good as he tried to swim.
Enter Shlomi Gez, an industrial design student at Hadassah College in Jerusalem, who read about ‘Hofesh’ one day on the Internet.
The challenge of helping the turtle intrigued him, and the tragedy bothered him – as it had the staff at the rescue center.
It didn’t work.
Gez first tried a prosthetic dorsal fin – but that didn’t work either, because it impeded the turtle’s ability to rise to the surface to breathe.
Unperturbed, the scientist tried again, this time with a dual fin prosthetic. Gez told SciTech Today it is based on the design of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-22 Raptor warplane.
The prosthetic resembles the aircraft’s wings, he said. “It worked better than one fin on the back. With two fins he keeps relatively balanced, even above the water.”
Last Thursday, ‘Hofesh’ tried out his new prosthetic and was free for the first time since being trapped in the net, swimming easily around in his tank at the Rescue Center.
Yaniv Levy, director of the Center, told the journal, “We have great plans for this guy.”
‘Hofesh’ is too badly injured to ever be able to be returned to the wild — but he shares his tank with a blind female turtle named ‘Tsurit.’ Researchers are hoping a romance will blossom, and if the two mate, they will add to the local population of the endangered green sea turtles.
Both turtles are still young – researchers estimate they are about 20 to 25 years old – and approaching the age to mate. Their offspring can be released back to the sea as soon as they hatch, although the parents will never return.