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article imageAmputee tortoise receives prosthetic wheel

By Kim I. Hartman     Jul 21, 2011 in Science
Pullman - A 12-year old African spur-thigh tortoise who required an amputation of his front leg due to an injury has got a new lease on life now that veterinarians have provided him with a prosthetic device to increase his mobility and improve his quality of life.
The tortoise, who name is Gamera, owes a debt of gratitude to veterinarians at Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, who attached a swiveling wheel to his shell to replace the missing limb, reports Komo News.
University veterinarians said Gamera was brought to them by his owner with a severe thermal burn that caused extensive tissue damage. After amputating the limb to save his life vets were left with the dilemma on how to help the animal regain its mobility with a front leg missing.
They devised a successful plan to attach a swiveling caster-style wheel to his shell with an epoxy adhesive. Gamera took to the new 'leg' quickly, and was able to move about with ease over most surfaces, reports Komo News.
Concerned the tortoise may not be getting adequate nutrition, vets used a feeding tube for a while after the 'surgery' but it wasn't needed for long when it was discovered he'd gained three pounds, and was thriving in his new environment.
Charlie Powell, a spokesman for the WSU's Veterinary Hospital, told Associated Press, "I don't know whether he'd pass the hare, but he moves around very well," a reference to Aesop's fable The Tortoise and the Hare.
The African spur-thigh tortoise, also known as the African spurred tortoise, is the third largest species of tortoise in the world after the Galapagos tortoise, and Aldabra Giant Tortoise. They have a lifespan of 30 to 50 years. Their native habitat is the southern edge of the Sahara desert, in northern Africa, according to Wikipedia. To combat the dry desert, spur-thigh tortoises will burrow into the sand, digging tunnels 10 foot long in search of moisture. The tortoises, which average 24 to 36 inches in length and weight up to 200 pounds, spend much of their day underground.
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