1. The act of saving an individual turtle maimed by a shark is deeply symbolic. The choice to save this turtle, Yu, must be contrasted against the ‘Japanese fishing net” which has probably maimed a thousand times as many turtles as the offending “brutal” shark.
KOBE, Japan — Life looked grim for Yu, a loggerhead turtle, when she washed up in a Japanese fishing net five years ago, her front flippers shredded after a brutal encounter with a shark.
2. Yu the mauled turtle is kept as an amusement (and testament to the generosity of humans) in a Kobe Aquarium. She has been fitted with “27 models of prosthetic fins.”
Now keepers at an aquarium in the western Japanese city of Kobe are looking for a high-tech solution that will allow the 25-year-old turtle to swim normally again after years of labor and 27 models of prosthetic fins behind them without achieving their goal.
3. Her keepers enlisted the help of many experts who tried again and again to create prosthetic fins for this one turtle. They often caused Yu pain while they tried to get her capable of swimming. I suspect the experts received professional prestige for their work. The executive director of the Aquarium (Kamezaki) seems to know that the alternative for Yu the turtle would be a quick death. The playing-God impulse isn’t in the arrogance to choose what happens to Yu (they certainly could set her on the beach and see which ways she chooses to go). The arrogance is in the commitment to hold this living animal as an experimental subject and believing that it is in her best interests.
After nursing the loggerhead – an endangered species – back to health, keepers enlisted the help of researchers and a local prosthetics-maker to get her swimming again.
Early versions of prosthetic flippers caused her pain or fell off quickly, and with money short, Kamezaki said he sometimes felt like packing it in.
“There have been times I wanted to give up and just fix her up the best we can and throw her back in,” he told Reuters. “Then if luck’s on her side she’ll be fine, if not, she’ll get eaten and that’s just life. The way of nature, I suppose.”
4. Why would you torture a living creature like this? To ensure that she makes babies. To inscribe the reproductive responsibility– the survival of the species into this single tortured being. And of course Aquarium director Kamezaki knows that if she did have babies it “would make all the trauma in her life worthwhile.”
Though Kamezaki admits that it’s unlikely Yu will ever live a normal turtle life, he still has hopes.
“My dream for her is that one day she can use her prosthetic fins to swim to the surface, walk about, and dig a proper hole to lay her eggs in,” Kamezaki said.
“When her children hatch, well, I just feel that would make all the trauma in her life worthwhile.”
5. I am in favor of doing what we can to save endangered species. And I like turtles, quite a bit. But I’m offended at this techno-science band-aid fantasy public relations memo masquerading as science news. For those slow to notice, the 28th version of Yu’s prosthetic flippers fell off less than a day after being attached. That’s right, these wretched researcher/prosthetic makers/aquarium directors didn’t actually help this turtle yet again, and they’d like the world to know that they screwed up again.
But along the way the aquarium makes money, the scientists get fame, newspapers have a quaint human interest story, and humans world wide get to imagine that all the brutality of commercial fishing is being neatly fixed by magical experts who are attaching fake-flippers back on mauled turtles. The desire to imagine the ecological harm done by human beings can be so easily fixed is at the heart of the problem.
The distraction of a single cute critter coupled with the affirmation of human-beings all-mighty capabilities (despite not actually turning out to have been that capable) makes this a most poisonous read. Stop making yourself less guilty by using desperate measures to save individual cute animals — make structural changes in society to stop harming animals.