He's an alligator whose tail was bitten off eight years ago, but some big-hearted researchers have spent thousands of dollars to make his life a little easier, with a first-of-its kind replacement tail.
It’s history in the making as an alligator learns to use his prosthetic tail.
Named Mr. Stubbs, he was confiscated in Arizona. Just simply owning a gator in the state is illegal. Stubbs has lived most of his life tail-less. He learned to swim by doggie paddling at the Phoenix Herpetological Society. Then science stepped in with an idea: build him a tail.
“And so it was just the process of figuring out how to make a mold and then getting a mold and playing with the material, I made some little models and stuff and figured out that it was going to be pretty good for the full tail.”
Scott Craven of the Arizona Republic knows that's modesty simplifying it. Scott was there witnessing Mr. Stubbs' historical swim.
“Everybody there has no idea anybody else has ever done this, and it actually took the molding of a tail from an alligator cadaver of roughly the same size of Mr. Stubbs, once they took the mold of that tail, they then dissected the tail to determine it's mass, center of gravity, so science went into this as well, it's not as if they poured rubber, stuck a trail on this guy and let him swim,” said Craven.
The orange floatie is an aid for Mr. Stubbs until he gets used to his new tail. They say it could take another six months before he fully adjusts.
“If we get him just to relax a little bit, where he's confident in it, because memory is there, when he was a baby and also instinctively, it's there, it's just he's been without it so long, he has to adjust to this,” said Russ Johnson with the Phoenix Herpetological Society.
The tail cost about $6,000 dollars, and will extend his life by decades. Experts project he will live to 80 years now, whereas he would have likely died much younger without the tail.