BO BLINKSI VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS
A turtle that Marine Turtle Research program volunteer Bo Blinski calls Survivor is seen off Maui.
Turtle copes with 1 less flipper
KIHEI, Maui » Green sea turtles don't have the easiest life in the sea, but one named Survivor has caught the attention of Bo Blinski, a volunteer for the Marine Turtle Research program. Survivor manages to swim, frolic and feed while missing one flipper.
Blinski, of Kihei, said he is inspired by the turtle's energy and its ability to overcome its handicap. He first spotted the turtle, already a member of an endangered species, about a year ago while snorkeling in water off South Maui.
"He or she holds its own. ... It's amazing," he said. It hasn't been determined whether Survivor is a male or female, but researchers estimate the turtle, judging from its size, is about 12 years old, young for a green sea turtle.
George Balazs, who heads the research program, said turtles could lose their flippers from shark attacks and even from becoming entangled in monofilament fishing lines.
He said a turtle with only one front flipper might be expected to swim in a circle, but observation has shown they compensate with their other flippers.
Balazs said not having a flipper could affect a male turtle more than a female because he might have difficulty breeding, which doesn't occur until they are 20 or 30 years old. He said both front flippers are needed to effectively hug the female for mating.
"That's kind of bad news if you are a boy turtle," said Balazs, head of a turtle research program for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center.