Tags: sea | turtle | swims | belt

Sea Turtle Swims For First Time In 11 Years With Scuba Dive Belt

Thursday, 23 May 2013 10:41 AM

By Megan Anderle

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A green sea turtle named Ali has a new lease on life after experts strapped the endangered creature into the world's first dive belt made exclusively for the scarce species.

Ali, who is thought to be 15 to 20 years old, is now diving properly for the first time in 11 years. She was hit by a boat years ago that left an air bubble under her shell, which prevented her from submerging and caused her to float bottom up.

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A Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park in Dorset, England created a pioneering belt – the first of its kind – with 2.5 lbs. of removable lead weights that works just like those used by scuba divers to help the 3-foot long, 140-pound creature, according to the Daily Mail.

Ali, named after boxer Muhammad Ali, can dive again, after more than a decade of being handicapped.

"This new invention will make life so much better for her. If the belt is successful it could pave the way for the other turtles," said Fiona Smith, a curator at the Sea Life park.

Smith's team came up with the idea of a harness that would function the same way as weights.

"We took the idea to a nearby dive shop and they came back to us with a custom-built dive belt we could slip weights into. It needs a few tweaks but otherwise it is ideal," she told the Daily Mail.

Ali's giant shell had been split open by a boat's engine propeller, and she was left for dead in her native Palm Beach in Florida. Fortunately, the animal was rescued and nursed back to health at a special hospital for turtles. But after her injuries healed, there was still a pocket of air left in her shell that made her buoyant.

"The common thing to do is to stick weights to injured turtles' shells to allow them to dive," Smith said. "But [because] Ali's shell was in slightly worse condition because of her accident, it wasn't that easy."

A protected endangered species, green turtles breathe oxygen but spend most of their lives under the water feeding and sleeping. They can live for more than 80 years.

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