An Arizona alligator known as Mr. Stubbs has received a prosthetic tail, all thanks to reptile experts at the Herpetological Society in Phoenix, Arizona.
Mr Stubbs was found among 32 other alligators in the back of a truck that had been pulled over near Casa Grande as it drove through Arizona. Once the officer saw the truck was full of alligators, the Arizona Game and Fish Department was called and the alligators were handed over to the Herpetological Society, which houses 1,500 reptiles.
“Scared the heck out of the officer,” said Russ Johnson, president of the Phoenix Herpetological Society. “No one expects to find alligators when you look into the back of a truck.”
Mr. Stubbs has been part of a project shortly after arriving at the center in May 2005. The gator was missing his tail and without it he was only about 20inches long.
X-rays later revealed he had a crushed vertebrae where Mr. Stubbs’ spine came to an abrupt end, which was proof the tail was bitten off. It likely was done by another alligator. Johnson said, “Mr Stubbs was probably very young and someone put him in with a much larger alligator and the alligator bit it off.”
While the center tries to re-home its alligators in zoos or wildlife refuges, it was clear Mr. Stubbs wasn’t going anywhere. Johnson and other handlers spent six months teaching him to paddle with his front feet, since the gator was missing his usual source of propulsion.
Wanting to do something more for the alligator, Johnson pitched an idea to Marc Jacofsky, an executive vice president of research and development at the CORE Institute in Phoenix, which specializes in orthopedic care for humans.
An assistant professor in the department of anatomy at Midwestern University in Glendale, Justin Georgi volunteered to analyze Mr. Stubbs and determine exactly what was needed to make the gator complete.
“I was in a unique position to help out in a one-of-a-kind project,” Georgi said. He also liked the humane implications. “I knew we could give him a better quality of life,” he said. “With a tail, he could walk and swim more naturally, reducing wear and tear on his joints.”
The team had a new high-tech tail made out of latex and silicon at a cost of thousands of dollars. They are now in the process of teaching Mr Stubbs how to swim again.
“The fact he doesn’t try to bite the tail is a good sign,” says Johnson. “Learning how to use it is going to take a lot of training.”
Johnson said it will be about three to six months of training before Mr. Stubbs relearns how to swim like an alligator again. But Johnson will have plenty of time for teaching and training, with an average gator life span at 70 years.
The team will have to craft another tail in the future, since Mr. Stubbs will grown, but all in all, “He is going to have a long and happy life here,” Johnson said. “Right now I want to get him to the point where he doesn’t need that floaty anymore. That way the other gators will stop making fun of him.”
Phoenix Alligator Gets New Tail
Phoenix society gives gator happier life with prosthesis.