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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 November, 2004, 11:13 GMT
Disabled dolphin gets new tail
Fuji, Okinawa, Japan (17 Nov 2004)
Fuji wears her new tail for 20 minutes a day
A disabled dolphin in Japan is able to swim normally and jump again thanks to an artificial tail fin made by a tyre company.

Fuji, 34, had three-quarters of her tail amputated in 2002 after suffering from a mystery disease.

A veterinarian working with Fuji asked a friend at Bridgestone Corp for help.

Ten prototypes were made before the company found one that worked, and it then took Fuji five months to get used to the fin - it initially scared her.

Fuji only wears the fin, which weighs about 2kg (5 pounds), for about 20 minutes a day in case it falls off or is eaten by other dolphins.

It is made out of the material usually used for Formula One race car tyres. Sponge rubber was used for the parts which come into direct contact with Fuji's skin.

"We are very grateful. Although she can swim without the artificial fin, the speed is very slow and she certainly cannot jump without it," said Masaya Kowami, a breeder at Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in southern Japan.

"Visitors have told us she looks happy," he said.

Bridgestone said the artificial fin cost the company about 10m yen ($95,000) to make, adding that it was open to other such unusual requests.

"We make tyres - we specialise in foots of sort. If we see offers, we will consider them," a spokesman said.

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