Operating On Fibropapillomatosis In Sea Turtles

Fibropapillomatosis (FP) in sea turtles is a debilitating, infectious disease characterized by single or multiple tumors that may develop anywhere on a turtle's body. FP mainly affects green turtles (Chelonia mydas) but has been reported in loggerheads, Kemp's Ridley and leatherbacks.

Afflicted Turtles

Afflicted turtles with the disease might be hampered in several disabling ways.

"Marine turtles with FP have external tumors that may grow so large and hanging as to hamper swimming, vision, feeding and potential escape from predators," Florida Turtle Hospital manager Bette Zirkelbach told the publication.

Possible Culprits

The possible culprits for this disease are pollution and warming water. The increases in sea surface temperatures as a result of climate change is also suspected.

"I have this horrible feeling that as the oceans warm we are going to see more and more disease," veterinarian Doug Made said.

Billy Causey, who has studied sea turtles since the 1960s and managed marine sanctuaries in the Florida Keys since 1983, also believes warmer waters could be a cause.

“It's basic chemistry," Causey told The Miami Herald in 2014. “You heat water a little bit and nothing happens. But then you add chemicals to the water, certainly things accelerate."

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the first case of FB was reported in 1938 when the disease was detected in green turtles in the Florida Keys. The disease has now been observed in all major oceans. It has been reported in Brazil, Texas, Australia, Florida, and now, North Carolina.

Centers Studying the Disease

Turtle centers studying the diseased include organization from Florida to Georgia, including Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach; The Turtle Hospital, in Marathon; Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater; the Sea Turtle Healing Center at Brevard Zoo in Melbourne; and Georgia Sea Turtle Center/Jekyll Island Authority, in Jekyll Island, Georgia.

Terry Norton, DVM, Dipl. ACZM, is the founder and director of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island, GA. He has conducted successful removal of tumor surgeries on green turtles.

By using technology which uses flexible fiber CO lasers, he has been able to achieve hemostasis that diminishes swelling, reduces risk of infection, minimizes scarring and improves the recovery of his patients.

Lend a Helping Hand

Currently, there is no cure for this disease. Conservation organizations are working diligently to establish a resolution for the  problem, as well as clean up polluted waterways where large sea turtle populations are affected. If you would like to lend a helping hand and adopt a sea turtle, visit the Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center site here. Adoption levels range from $25 to $250.

The purchase of a sea turtle adoption helps to rehabilitate rescued sea turtles. It supplies food and medicine to help them heal from diseases such as FP.  Adopt one for yourself or give one as a gift to someone you love. Adoptions are also great activities for school classrooms.

Operating On Fibropapillomatosis In Sea Turtles


Primary Source: Science Direct