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February 15, 2007

Fuji the Dolphin Thrives with Artificial Fin

fuji the dolphinFuji, a dolphin in the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Japan, has made the news today because of her artificial fin. (That's Fuji with her artificial fin in the photo to the left.)

Fuji is a bottlenose dolphin who lost 75% of her flukes to a mystery disease in 2002.

Flukes are the two appendages on the dolphin's tail that the dolphin moves up and down in order to move efficiently through the water and to stop quickly. They also sometimes use the flukes to stun their prey!

The aquarium teamed with Japanese tire company Bridgestone (I had no idea Bridgestone was a Japanese company) to see if they could develop an artificial fin that would allow Fuji to lead a normal life.

They have now successfully created an artificial fin for Fuji, though they say they would like to improve it even further. From the Aquarium site:

So far we have developed several versions of the artificial fin. However, the newest version is not yet perfect. We still continue our research for better materials and way of attachment. We are still trying out new ideas. At the same time, the research for artificial fin might give us an insight into the function and mechanism of the natural dolphin tail flukes.

While it's terrible to see dolphins in captivity, it's great to see these advancements in research that will help both animals and humans in the future.

Here's a little bit more about Fuji: She is about 36 years old and has been in captivity since 1976. She has had three children while living at the aquarium. Ryu, her oldest son, died in 2005 of disease.

Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

There is a video of Fuji at the following link:
Fintastic! Dolphin fitted with artificial tail

December 20, 2006

Dolphin With Scoliosis Has Died

In October we posted the story of Ayla the dolphin. She was 14 years old and was battling scoliosis. Unfortunately she has passed away at the Minnesota Zoo.

A zoo official said workers knew Ayla didn't have much time left. Nonetheless, officials and staff mourned her passing. The animal lived much longer than most dolphins who share the deformity.
Ayla, A Bottlenose Dolphin, Dies At Minnesota Zoo

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