The Inspiring Story of the Baby Dolphin with the Prosthetic Tail

HCJ Winter Feeding

Consider this my ‘feel good post of the season’ or perhaps even the year as family-friendly movies with happy endings about cute animals overcoming incredible odds and inspiring millions isn’t my usual sort of content. But after meeting David Yates, CEO for Clearwater Marine Aquarium, at a press lunch about the new film Dolphin Tale I’m hip to spread the good word about this movie based on the remarkable true story of Winter the Dolphin.

After losing her tail in a crab trap as a two month old baby dolphin, Winter went on to become the world’s first dolphin to be fitted with a prosthetic limb. Rehabilitated at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Winter defied all odds by not only by surviving but learning to swim again. Today she’s a happy and healthy six year old still living at the CMA and is an inspiration to children, people of all ages with disabilities or who have lost limbs and essentially anyone in need of a good dose of willpower triumphing over adversity.

Here are a few facts about Winter and her amazing tail:

  • Winter’s tails are made by Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics;
  • Winter was first fitted in September 2007;
  • There have been over 15 versions of the tail – as she outgrows them or new therapy strategies are determined;
  • Winter does not wear the tail all of the time but is wearing it progressively more as she continues to adapt to it. In addition to allowing her to swim in a normal dolphin motion, it provides her with much needed physical therapy;
  • A gel developed specially for her named “WintersGel” is now being used with human prosthetic patients.

Along with the real Winter the Dolphin actually appearing in the film, Dolphin Tale features an A-list line up of actors – Morgan Freeman, Harry Connick Jr, Ashley Judd and Kris Kristofferson. Another star of the film is its location – Clearwater, Florida. Filmed entirely in Pinellas County, Florida, the area’s famous white sand beaches and world record sunny day climate play a key role in film.

Much of Dolphin Tale takes place at the CMA which offers the exclusive opportunity to visit Winter in her home as well as the once in a lifetime chance to swim with her. There’s even a dolphin encounter program, allowing visitors to snorkel with St Pete/Clearwater’s Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the CMA’s main goals are to rescue, rehabilitate and (if possible) release its animals. Its role as a tourist attraction is secondary and mainly provided as an opportunity to educate the public and raise funds to further its cause.

Apparently, Dolphin Tale has been blowing the box office away since opening in the States a week or so ago. With the film’s success in the States, the not-for-profit Clearwater Marine Aquarium is now able to underg renovation and development in excess of $12 million. The renovations are set to triple resident dolphin space and double sea turtle rehabilitation capacity, feature a new 6.4 million litre Dolphin Pool Complex with stadium seating and educational exhibits, and will be complete in early 2012.

Dolphin Tale opens 12 October in the UK. I want to see. Even the clips viewed during lunch with David gave me chill bumps and left me feeling much less cynical than I was before. I reckon “Dolphin Tale” will be a hit here as well. I mean, who doesn’t like death defying dolphins … or Morgan Freeman … or scenes with white sand beaches and palm trees swaying in the sun?

About tikichris

London-Based Writer/Photographer
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