Sea Turtle Amputee Can Swim Again Thanks To Fighter Jet-Inspired Prosthetic

Not long ago, the future seemed bleak for this endangered male sea turtle that washed up on a beach in Israel with two severely damaged flippers. Wildlife rescuers soon determined that it would be necessary to amputate the limbs, even though that meant the animal, given the name Hofesh, might never be at home in the water again.

But thanks to the clever application of aerospace technology, the turtle amputee is finally swimming anew.

While searching for an idea about what his final project at college might be, industrial design student Shlomi Gez happened upon the website of the Israel Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, where Hofesh had been sent to live. The self-described animal-lover decided to pay the facility a visit to see if his design skills could be used to improve the lives of a needy creature.

"As soon as I saw the place, I was inspired," Gez tells Haaretz. "I knew I could help solve their most acute problem, which was Hofesh."

Keepers at the rehab center had tried their best to make life easier for the turtle by attaching a floatation device to side of his shell where he was missing limbs, but it did little to return his mobility. But Gez had just the solution to make that possible.

Drawing inspiration from the two rear fins of an F22 fighter jet, Gez soon began working on a prototype that could be affixed to a harness that would help Hofesh maintain balance and control underwater.

"I'm using two small flippers placed at the same angle as the two rear winglets on the aircraft," says Gez.

Remarkably, with the help of Gez's space-age prosthetic flippers, it wasn't long before Hofesh was back to his former self.

"At first we could only put him in a shallow water pool because he would have drowned, but now that he has his artificial flipper he swims completely normally," says the center's director, Yaniv Levy.

Despite the strides he's made with the artificial flippers, Hofesh's injuries mean that he will never be able to return to the open ocean, but he is still helping his kind as a whole recover from its own challenges.

The rehab center's staff have paired Hofish with a female turtle resident in hopes that they will produce offspring which will can then be introduced into the wild -- boosting the population of the endangered species which has seen declines of 50 percent in the last decade.