Tour De Tampa: Clearwater Aquarium

By  | 

Tampa, FL (WVLT) - If you're heading to the Outback Bowl in Tampa one place you may want to visit is the Clearwater Aquarium where history is in the making as workers tend to dolphins in need.

As WVLT Volunteer TV's Stephen McLamb shows you, a dolphin there named Winter may be getting the world's first prosthetic tailfin.

Dolphins are some of the world's smartest creatures and can do many things. But sometimes in the open water they run into problems and need the help of the Clearwater Aquarium.

"We'll go out and deal with it if we get a call and if we need to bring them back and rehab them with the eventual goal of release if we can," says David Yates, CEO of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

But not all dolphins can be released. Meet Winter. She was found at the tender age of one month entangled in a crab trap.

"It was wrapped around her peck fins, in her mouth, all around her tail and she was in really bad shape when they found her," explains Diane Mitchell, Director of Animal Care at the Aquarium.

Her tail was entangled so bad they thought she was going to die but something else happened.

"Her tail just literally fell off. We had to clean that wound every day. In the beginning it was twice a day," Mitchell says.

It's been just over a year now, she's completely healthy, and she's learned to compensate.

"She just whips that around side to side, kinda like a shark and that's where she gets the most momentum from. She just moves her whole body back and forth," Mitchell explains.

So researchers are hoping to get her to go back to her natural up and down tail motion by developing a prosthetic tail, the first of its kind.

"It's in the research stages. Right now, they're still trying to develop the idea of how to attach it," Mitchell says.

But until it's developed, they're already getting Winter ready.

"Just a very generic sleeve that we're putting on her," Mitchell explains. "That way she gets the idea that we're kind of working with that area, putting on the sleeve, getting her comfortable to something different."

In part 3, our Tour De Tampa continues with a trip to the Lowery Zoo where you'll meet an animal with a Knoxville connection.