Nine years ago in Florida, rescuers found a young bottlenose dolphin tangled in a crab trap. They brought her to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA), where they named her Winter. Unfortunately, Winter’s injuries were so severe that her entire tail and two vertebrae were lost. Thanks to the staff of CMA, Winter has healed. She now swims with the help of a tail created by prosthetics and orthotics company Hanger, together with marine mammal veterinarian Mike Walsh and CMA’s marine mammal trainers.
According to the CMA, many steps are required for Winter to wear her prosthetic tail. The process starts with a “sock,” which they call the famous “Winter’s Gel.” The sock’s rubbery material reduces friction on her skin and helps the tail stay on. Also, a “cup” and a suspension strap are placed on her body. A sleeve is pulled over the entire tail to secure all moving pieces. Finally, the rubber band, a new feature of Winter’s prosthetic, is placed right at the end of the tail.
Although Winter is doing swimmingly, she needs constant care. Her prosthetic tail can only be used for short periods of time. Swimming without it in the wild would put her at great risk. Winter calls the CMA home, and she serves as an ambassador, teaching people from all over the world about dolphins!
Winter the dolphin and all her friends at the CMA are back in the movie Dolphin Tale 2 (rated PG), in theaters September 12.
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