Stunning pictures show sea turtle swimming for the first time after getting a prosthetic flipper

Remarkable and stunning images show the first time that a disabled sea turtle was able to swim after being fitted with a prosthetic flipper.

Rocky, who is between 25 and 30 years old, had been using a life jacket-type device to swim after being injured in a boating accident that caused him to lose his front right flipper and damaged his shell, SWNS reports. While able to get around, he had trouble going underwater and swam in circles, an affliction that affected him for close to 20 years. But thanks to the prosthetic, Rocky is able to swim normally.

“We put it on and off he went swimming," said prosthetist Kevin Carroll, who helped design the artificial limb. "It was fantastic to see."

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Carroll helped make the limb with his team in their spare time, an endeavor that would normally cost $6,000, but the animal lover put extraordinary focus and effort into getting it just right.

Prosthetist Kevin Carroll and his colleagues with Rocky the turtle and his prosthetic flipper. (Credit: SWNS) 

Prosthetist Kevin Carroll and his colleagues with Rocky the turtle and his prosthetic flipper. (Credit: SWNS) 

“We put so much focus into making sure the prosthetic was correct so once he got into the water it was a wow moment," Carroll added. “Before he got into the water he had great control over the flipper so I was thrilled with that. It was just amazing. It was absolutely breathtaking.”

Sea turtle endangerment

According to the World WildLife Foundation, sea turtles have a "vulnerable" status and "nearly all species of sea turtle are classified as endangered."

Not only are they killed for their eggs, meat, skin and shells, they also have seen declines in population due to poaching and over-exploitation. Habitat destruction, accidental capture and climate change are also cited as issues negatively affecting the sea turtle population.

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Population numbers are difficult to know because juvenile and male sea turtles do not come ashore, SeaWorld notes, but some species, such as the green sea turtle, are thought to have population declines between 48 and 67 percent over the past 120 to 140 years.

The most endangered species is the Kemp's ridley turtle. SeaWorld adds that 42,000 nests were counted in a single day in 1947, a number that "declined dramatically until the 1980s."

Rocky now

Rocky, who was rescued in 2001, is now swimming in the water at Key West Aquarium in Florida, undergoing physical therapy and using the flipper for an hour a day.

 Rocky was fitted with the custom-made limb after spending close to two decades struggling to swim underwater. (Credit: SWNS)

 Rocky was fitted with the custom-made limb after spending close to two decades struggling to swim underwater. (Credit: SWNS)

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Carroll, who usually builds human prosthetics, said that he had recently worked with a child with "great energy and a wonderful spirit" and likened that to his work with Rocky.

“I find that with turtles they have an energy about them, a willingness to work with you," Carroll said. “If they could talk, I think they would be saying, ‘Let’s do this.' It’s incredible to see.”

Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia