PHOENIX, Arizona -- An alligator with the Phoenix Herpetological Society is once again living a normal life thanks to the help of a little modern science.
The Phoenix Herpetological Society said Mr. Stubbs was already missing his tail when he was rescued by their facility.
The tail was likely bitten off by another alligator, and without it life in the water was much more difficult for Mr. Stubbs.
“When we first got him, if the water was too deep for him to touch the bottom, he would roll over onto his back and could not right himself,” said Russ Johnson, President of PHS. “We had to teach him to swim by dog paddling, like you teach a child to swim.”
Fortunately for Mr. Stubbs, word of his struggles made its way to The CORE Institute and Dr. Marc Jacofsky.
Dr. Jacofsky, along with research associate Sarah Jarvis, began looking at ways to improve Mr. Stubbs’ mobility, and assembled a team to start examining a prosthetic tail.
Justin Georgi, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Anatomy at Midwestern University who has been studying the locomotion of alligators at PHS since 2010.
Georgi joined the project to help Mr. Stubbs, and was able to help determine the appropriate size for Mr. Stubbs’ new tail.
The CORE Institute was then able to create a full tail that was covered in Dragon Skin, a lightweight, flexible silicone material that is regularly used for special effects and animatronics in movies.
Before handing Mr. Stubbs his new tail, researchers had to create a harness system that would hold the tail to the alligator’s body without causing any discomfort or skin problems.
The tail appears to be a great fit for Mr. Stubbs, as he’s demonstrated significant improvement and is doing much better in the water.
“After almost eight years, we need to ‘unteach’ him the dog paddle, so he can swim like a normal alligator,” said Johnson.