By TOM LEONARD
Inspirational: Winter with her prosthetic tail
This is the tale of a tail. A story which is a tribute to human ingenuity and the courage of one very special mammal who, for the past six years, has astonished thousands of visitors to her Florida aquarium.
For Winter the dolphin has a custom-built plastic and silicone prosthetic tail with which she has learned to swim — and with which she has inspired many men, women and children who have lost limbs.
Now, millions have learned about this remarkable story after it was turned into the Hollywood film currently sweeping all before it at the American box office and which opens in the UK next week.
Fishy tale: A worker at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida holds the prosthetic tail
Dolphin Tale, which stars Morgan Freeman as the man who crafted the tail for Winter, recreates a real-life saga which began one December morning in 2005, when Florida fishermen found a three-month-old dolphin caught by its tail in a crab trap.
The creature, so badly hurt that her mother had abandoned her, was taken to the nearby Clearwater Marine Aquarium, a rehabilitation centre for injured sealife. But a rope in the trap which had snaked around the young dolphin's tail had cut off the blood supply, with devastating consequences.
Named Winter by aquarium staff, she lost her tail and two vertebrae, but at least survived. Slowly, she found a way to swim, albeit far more slowly and with the side-to-side motion of a shark rather than the typical up-and-down movement used by dolphins.
Maimed: Winter before her artificial tail was fitted
'She has a way of connecting with injured people. Someone missing a limb is obvious, but she seems to be able to pick up on anyone with a physical challenge and somehow connect with them.'
Dolphins learn how to survive from their parents. Having lost her mother so young, Winter cannot be released into the wild. But in her newly-built 80,000-gallon aquarium pool, the resilience of this rather marvellous creature is enriching the lives of those who are lucky enough to meet her.
Friday, October 7, 2011
The uplifting tail of the dolphin taught to swim with the world's first artificial fin has been made into a film
By TOM LEONARD