‘Mr. Stubbs’ the alligator gets fancy new tail

Mr. Stubbs is 11 years old, 7-feet long, and sports a fancy new tail.

The American alligator, who lives at the Phoenix Herpetological Society in Arizona, had his tail ripped off by the larger, aggressive alligators he shared a pen with in 2005.

Gator Learning to Move With Prosthetic TailAn alligator in Phoenix is learning to walk and swim with its new prosthetic tail. The Phoenix Herpetological Society says the CORE institute and researchers at Midwestern University worked together to develop the fake tail. (March 12)

He was rescued from the back of a truck along with 32 other illegally held alligators and taken to the sanctuary.

Without a tail, Mr. Stubbs struggled to swim and lacked basic survival skills.

"We put him in deep water and he would roll over and capsize like a boat," Russ Johnson, president of Phoenix Herpetological Society told ABC News. "When competition for food came, all the other alligators would win. He’d be the last to the chow line."

To dramatically improve the gator's quality of life, The CORE Institute (Center for Orthopedic Research and Education), in partnership with Midwestern University, created a groundbreaking prosthetic tail out of a lightweight, flexible silicone material that matched the density of a real tail.

"We've never made a prosthetic for an animal before," Marc Jacofsky, the executive vice president for research and development for The Core Institute, told ABC News. "Our motto is 'Keep life in motion.' It just feels really good to apply that to an animal that’s in need."

Johnson believes the new tail will help Mr. Stubbs live up to 80 years. Without it, his life expectancy was just 20.

"Eventually what would've happened is when he gets bigger there would’ve been an abnormal pressure between the discs in his back. We would've seen spinal cord degradation, acute pain and he would’ve had to be put down," Johnson told ABC News. "We're just trying to make his quality of life what it should be."

"He is going to have a long and happy life here," Johnson told The Arizona Republic.

Volunteers, who once taught Mr. Stubbs to swim without a tail, are now teaching Mr. Stubbs to swim with his new tail.

"The fact he doesn't try to bite it (the tail) is a good sign," Johnson told The Arizona Republic. "Learning how to use it is going to take a lot of training."

"I taught him to essentially to dog paddle like you teach your kid," Johnson added. "You have to remember, his body has memory but he’s been swimming this way for eight years and you're putting an attachment on there. It took about six months to swim dog-paddling, and I figured it will take three to six months to teach him to swim with a tail."