A turtle that washed up on a beach in Israel was found with his two left flippers dangling hopelessly by his side – they had been severed by sharp fishing lines. The Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Michmoret named him Freedom and kept him for four years.
The center had no choice but to amputate Freedom’s necrotic fins, but when they did, he was no longer able to swim or breathe properly, according to NBC News.
“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.
Freedom, whose Hebrew name is Hofesh, lived like this for four years before an industrial design student came around looking for a meaningful design project to complete for his thesis.
Shlomi Gez’s work was cut out for him since the turtle needed prosthetic limbs that he could use to swim, but these are not easy to strap to a hard shell.
The Bezalel Academy student did some research, contacted a Texas rescue center that is rehabilitating a turtle with a similar condition, and eventually settled on a couple of angled fins that attach to Freedom’s shell.
Inspired by the tail of a Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor jet, they are made with an “advanced plastic” and have restored the turtle’s ability to move without assistance.
Freedom will never return to the Mediterranean Sea, where Levy estimates only 10-20 Chelonia mydas breeding females have survived reckless overfishing, pollution and oil spills and other human and environmental threats, but he will become a breeder – just as soon as his new girlfriend Tzurit is ready.
Photos via the Israel Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center