Alligator dubbed 'Mr. Stubbs' adapts to life with prosthetic tail

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Arizona alligator 'Mr. Stubbs' gets prosthetic tail

An alligator nicknamed Mr. Stubbs is getting a new lease on life after being outfitted with a 3-foot-long prosthetic tail at the Phoenix Herpetological Society.

They call me Mr. Stubbs, and this is my tail.

That might very well be the intro line for an 11-year-old alligator who has been outfitted with a 3-foot-long prosthetic tail in an attempt to make him "whole" again.

The Phoenix Herpetological Society says Mr. Stubbs is apparently the first alligator to tolerate, if not sport, a prosthesis.

Mr. Stubbs, who apparently had his tail bitten off by another gator as a young one, arrived at society's compound in Scottsdale, Ariz., in 2005. He was one of 32 alligators seized from a truck pulled over near Casa Grande, Ariz., with an illegal shipment of exotic animals, the Arizona Republic reports.

The herpetological center tried to find homes for the rescued reptiles in zoos or other wildlife refuges, but that wasn't possible in this case because the gator was missing a tail — hence his nickname. Without the vital appendage, he was only about 20 inches long.

Marc Jacofsky, executive vice president of research and development at the CORE Institute in Phoenix, which specializes in orthopedic care for humans, was approached by society officials about 18 months ago and he agreed to oversee a project to make an artificial tail for the gator.

According to the Republic, Justin Georgi, assistant professor in the anatomy department at Midwestern University in Glendale, Ariz., used 3-D computer modeling to devise the tail's specifications. Sarah Jarvis, research associate at the CORE Institute, crafted an artificial tail from silicone rubber.

After a second fitting and other adjustments, the 35-pound Mr. Stubbs was ready for the water.

He didn't do very well the first time — the tail and Mr. Stubbs sank, according to the Republic.

More adjustments were made.

Last week, Mr. Stubbs was put in a backyard swimming pool, with a $3 water wing attached to his prosthetic tail. This time, he floated.

"It's all about balance at this point," Russ Johnson, president of the Phoenix Herpetological Society, told the Republic. “The fact he can float with no trouble is a big step."

It could take another three to six months to retrain Mr. Stubbs to swim like an alligator, using his artificial tail as propulsion.

Not that Mr. Stubbs is in any hurry. Alligators can live to be 60 or 70 years old. And because he's still growing, more prosthetic tails will need to be made in the future, according to the Republic.

“He is going to have a long and happy life here," Johnson told the newspaper. "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."

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